Talk:God and gender

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Archives[edit]

Spam[edit]

A couple of days ago, I deleted a very long, discursive and irrelevant quote from a self-published novelist called Fady Bahig that appeared on this page. What do you know, I turn up today and it has found its way back in thanks to some unregistered user! I've reverted the page to remove the quotation again. If anyone sees very long quotations from this random person sneaking back in, could they please remove them? Wikipedia isn't an advertising forum. Thank you! -- TinaSparkle 15:59, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

Extensive cleanup[edit]

I've copyedited, NPOVed and cleaned up large parts of this article, and converted it from essay-style text into encyclopedic text, and edited it down to a manageable length - all as per Wikipedia policy. There is still an awful lot to be done, especially in the "Translating the names of God into English" section, which is far too long, too wordy, too filled with quotes and generally like someone's essay on the subject rather than an encyclopedia article. Interesting though much of this material may be, it is not relevant, and is inappropriate in an encyclopedia article.

There is a great deal still to be done to make this article readable, clear, unbiased and informative. I would encourage everyone to read Wikipedia's guide to writing great articles (click through the Help links) and not pad this piece out with lots of extraneous detail which will confuse and discourage the general reader. -- TinaSparkle 19:41, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Christianity and genderless God[edit]

Not all Christians believe in genderless God; in fact, the maleness of God the Father and God the Son are beliefs that have influenced Christianity profoundly throughout its existence, from denounciations of heresies which suggest women should or even have been priests or bishops, historic debates on whether women had souls or were less in the image of God and more like animals, to restrictions on women's role in church, marriage and family life. I think most contemporary lay Christians and some theologians might disagree with current statemnt "In Christianity, God is believed to be intrinsically sexless." SC 04:00, 10 September 2005 (UTC)

You are correct. off of the internet (in the real world) I have rarely met a Christian with this view. Most Christians historically have viewed God as male; I suspect that most Christians alive today still do, even if that isn't what their chuch officially teaches. I've personally met Christians who told me that "God is a man", and their reasoning is that Jesus was a man, and that Jesus was God incarnate. This is not some very rare view; it is quite mainstream, and the article needs to represent the majority view as such. RK 14:27, 15 September 2005 (UTC)
I can understand how one could believe that God was male; perhaps one was influenced by parents, art, or some other medium. But HOW could they actually believe that God was female? There has never been an ounce of proof from a mainstream writing or other medium (that I know of, unless one considers polytheistic religion, but that isn't Christianity) that has ever depicted God as a female. I could, of course, be mistaken...Robinson0120 08:05, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

Not sexless, "Transcendent"[edit]

I think the point should be expressed more clearly/prominently on the page that some Christians believe that God is simply beyond gender identification. Genderless is not exactly equivalent to being transcendent beyond gender. All of our languages, even the ancient ones, are limited in their ability to express this, and God generally springs out of any conceptual box that we mortals try to put Him/Her/It/Them/*/ in. It is important to acknowledge that the traditional view of a masculine God strongly shaped church history. It did, and that is a fact. However, while God is not changing, our understanding of Him (for lack of a better term) is.

My opinion, we probably shouldn't make such a big deal out of it, and worry instead about following the chief command issued by God, namely "Love your neighbor as yourself." Sr.Wombat 02:19, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

And mine just happens to be that believing an omnipotent God having a gender is completely ludicrous, considering that nature would code for such a thing (and the fact that God would almost certainly have no need of either a penis or sperm, unless polytheistic beliefs are accurate, in which case we wouldn't be talking about "God"). I can't imagine why somebody would have to debate something so frivolous. (By the way, I meant no offense to anyone by that statement- it's just offhand common sense.) Robinson0120 08:09, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

Major addition needed[edit]

Almost every last word of the christianity section is dedicated to the heterodox views of God's gender. That's quite insufficient. Thanatosimii 01:45, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Elohim problems[edit]

I removed the following from the text:

They are an image of Elohim. The plural word for God (Elohim) and the words "let us .." reflect not only the idea of God surrounded by a heavenly court but also the notion of God as combining all the characteristics of the male and female gods in the Canaanite pantheon which Yahweh transcends, yet includes.

The "-iym" ending, in Hebrew the word Elohiym is plural, and not to be confused with the dual endings of mayim (water) and chayyim (Life). These are one substance, but with a certain fluidity demanding terminology expressing this. The water has no one true surface - its form is ever changing face. In "Chayyim", we are dealing with a Hebrew concept of more than one type of life combined. Had this been the only need for an other than singular ending for "Elohiym", the dual "-im", not the true plural "-iym" would have been employed. We cannot attribute to this word any singularity of form in the Hebrew Bible. When not referring to GOD, it is always plural. But no Hebrew saw GOD as alike to HIS creation. - thus the term "ELOHIYM", as reserved for divine reference, though coupled with singular verbs (though not always), is used not to denote one person but more than one displaying perfect unity. The word Elohim is not the only plural noun used for GOD in the Tanakh. When people read this word in the Bible as singular, they are creating a presumptious warping of historical religious nomenclature. The word elohim had an origin that gave it a straightforward plural grammatical form, whatever post-Biblical Israelites have since thought of this word. The Encyclopedia Judaica has this to say, however, in the article "Names of God".

In reference to Israel's "God" it is used extremely often-more than 2,000 times - and often with the article, ha-elohim, "the (true) God." Occasionally, the plural form elohim, even when used of the God of Israel, is construed with a plural verb or adjective (e.g., Gen. 20: 13; 35:7; Ex. 32:4, 8; II Sam. 7:23; Ps. 58: 12), especially in the expression elohim hayyim, "the living God."
In the vast majority of cases, however, the plural form is treated as if it were a noun in the singular. The odd fact that Hebrew uses a plural noun to designate the sole God of Israel has been explained in various ways. It is not to be understood as a remnant of the polytheism of Abraham's ancestors, or hardly as a "plural of majesty" - if there is such a thing in Hebrew. Some scholars take it as a plural that expresses an abstract idea (e.g., zekunim, "old age"; neurim, "time of youth"), so that Elohim would really mean "the Divinity."
More likely, however, it came from Canaanite usage; the early Israelites would have taken over elohim as a singular noun just as they made their own the rest of the Canaanite language. In the Tell-el-Amarna Letters Pharaoh is often addressed as "my gods [ilaniya] the sun-god." In the ancient Near East of the second half of the second millennium B.C.E. there was a certain trend toward quasi-monotheism, and any god could be given the attributes of any other god, so that an individual god could be addressed as elohai, "my gods" or adonai, "my lords." The early Israelites felt no inconsistency in referring to their sole God in these terms.
Encyclopedia Judaica, Keter Publishing
Nonetheless, even if the term "Elohim" is now singular in Hebrew, it may well have once been plural; otherwise, there would really have been no reason for keeping it in a quasi-plural form. Also, there was likely a period in which some Hebrew-speakers and Israelites agreed with their Canaanite neighbors' polytheism, and used "Elohim" in the plural, while other Hebrew-speakers were monotheistic, and used the word out of general habit. Otherwise, there'd be no reason for prophets to be constantly hooting down their fellow Israelites for idolatry. Rickyrab 04:08, 15 May 2004 (UTC)
Although it may once have been plural, it seems never to have functioned this way in the Israelite religion and in rabbinic Judaism. Within these groups all evidence shows that it has always been understood as singular. RK 14:27, 15 September 2005 (UTC)

This supports the evidence that this term, thought orthodox enough for such wide usage by Israel, from the beginning, was not unacceptible as originally understood - if it was a matter of eclipsing a Cana'anite heathenism, it was hardly reasonable to begin by adopting a term that, apart from redefinition, was contradictory to their idea of the Unity of GOD.

Further Elohim problems[edit]

I really don't understand what the following passage is supposed to mean:

In the places where female gender is used, the word is mophologically archaic (see Elohim).

On page "Elohim" there is absolutely nothing about morphological archaism, but there was some linguistically-incorrect information about "Eloah" being feminine in form which I have removed (see Talk:Elohim). The page Elohim is in desperate need of a major overhaul in any case. AnonMoos 02:32, 24 August 2005 (UTC)

Pneuma[edit]

We have thus far been unable to determine the gender of the Greek pronouns used in speaking of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. If you have a Greek or Interlinear New Testament and speak Greek, help us out by checking this out and reporting back on what pronouns are used. As can be seen above, the grammatical structure in John 14, a passage which speaks extensively of the Holy Spirit, has apparently left us unable to discover this piece of information, which is somewhat important ot this debate.

As far as I can see, the NT uses the neuter for Spirit (pneuma). In John 14 there is a masculine (ekeinos) which refers to Comforter (paraklitos), which is a masculine word. So the NT just follows the grammatical gender, which is only logical. Yngwin 13:39 30 Jun 2003 (UTC)

The above is accurate but the article itself is flagrantly incorrect and self-contradictory. Autos is of the masculine gender, (auta would be feminine and auto would be neuter.) In 14:17 the neuter form of autos is used (auto) while in 14:26 the masculine form of ekeinos is used. Yet, clearly these refer to the same entity as the advocate and the holy spirit are placed in apposition to each in 14:26. This once again demonstrates the fallacy of equating grammatical gender with sexual gender. It should also not read neutral gender where the correct term is neuter.

Claimed feminine Biblical metaphors[edit]

I have removed Isaiah 66:12 and Hosea 11:1-3 from the article. The author claimed that these were references to God as a mother figure. This is not the case (although God is compared to a mother in Isaiah 63:13, the remaining quote). Isaiah 66:12 must be seen in context. Begin reading at v. 7 and it will become clear that the "her" referred to is not God, but Zion (Jerusalem in v. 10 - same thing). The Hosea reference is fairly vague. It clearly refers to God as a parent, but not necessarily a mother. kpearce 17:51 21 Jun 2003 (UTC)

C.S. Lewis[edit]

C. S. Lewis made a fascinating argument about this that is worth reporting. He said something to the effect that "If God is female, She is so profoundly and completely female that the most feminine of us must be male by comparison. And if God is male, He is so profoundly and completely male that the most masculine of us must be female by comparison." User:142.177.77.69

This I think was an argument for God being genderless, or not caring, but, it has interesting implications that a male God implies worshippers that emulate female behaviour, and a female Goddess the opposite. If, therefore, the shift to a male God which occurred in recorded history could be said to have a sociologial purpose, it might be to make us all act in a more motherly or equalizing or conciliatory or socially engaging way rather than the more typical male hierarchy-building. Now, if I could remember who said *that*, it'd be in the article already. User:142.177.77.69

Hinduism / Some pagans...[edit]

I was very suprised that there was no discussion of God and gender in Hinduism as all Hindus worship Shakti or Devi who is viewed as God the Divine Mother. So, I have added a section. User:Raj2004

Some pagans also believe in gender neutral, androgynous, and "third sex" deities.

Like who? Cite please. Sam [Spade] 16:56, 18 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Hinduism is one. I understand that Shiva is widely imagined and visualized as half-male and half-female. COGDEN 23:54, Oct 18, 2004 (UTC)
  • Hinduism is not a pagan religion. It is simply namecalling. Ancient Hindus consider non-Hindus to be mleechas, a derogatory term or yavanas. I think pagan has the same connotation.

User: 67.106.157.231

Hindu's are not pagan / polytheist, see God, pantheism, panentheism, etc... Also Shiva isn't 1/2 female. Also, pagan is often a slur (particularly outside of the modern, secular west), polytheist would be correct (except it isn't ;) Sam [Spade] 13:05, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Going off on a tangent, the most common definition of pagan means simply a non-Abrahamist). Whether or not you think pagan is a slur depends on whether you think paganism is bad. It's like the term Jew: it's only a slur if you think being a Jew is bad. Back to the point: Shiva is indeed often viewed as androgynous (as is his son Ganesha). Shiva's androgynous form is called Ardhnarishvara. And there are other gods that are often depicted as androgynous, like Frigg, the Norse sun goddess, and a number of ancient Native American gods. COGDEN 18:18, Oct 21, 2004 (UTC)
Hmm... I really don't agree about Shiva and Ganesha, and I'm unfamilar w Ardhnarishvara. I am very familiar w frigg, and heartilly disagree w the idea she is somehow androgenous (she is the mother goddess in asatru!). As far as the whole "pagan" thing, I think what the anon was refering to is how some muslims (and other abrahamic religions) will malaign Hinduism as being polytheistic, and "pagan" (not an acceptable religion of God). As far as these native american deities, I'd like to hear more about them. Sam [Spade] 16:49, 24 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Hi, Sam and COGDEN, Cogden is partially correct. Hindus believe that nature of the Ultimate Reality, i.e., God or Shiva has really no form. But form is needed for humans to concentrate as Saguna Brahman. One of the form symbolzing that God is everything, is Ardhanarishvara, half-male and half-female, representing all genders of all living things. See source, http://www.himalayanacademy.com/resources/books/dws/M04.html additionally, see, http://www.dlshq.org/download/lordsiva.htm As for Ganesh, Ganesh is never presented in that manner. As a practical point, Hinduism is too broad a term and is really four divisions. 1) Vaishnvaism 2) Shaivism 3) Shaktism and 4) Smarta see below web site. Ganesh, by 99% of Hindus is not the Supreme God, who is typically in Hinduism is Vishnu or Shiva. Ganesh is worshipped for material success just as Christians veneraate saints. Even most Smartas pray to either Vishnu or Shiva. As a practical point, Hindus are mostly liberal in theology. However, if pressed to identity, 75-80% of Hindus are Vaishnvaites. So this theme about being a polytheistic religion is garbage. See http://www.gitamrta.org/, misconceptions about Hinduism In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, avatar of Vishnu states that He alone is God. Those who worship Devas, commonly potrayed as gods in Western media are of limited understanding. http://www.harekrishna.com/~ara/col/books/BG/tsem1.html; The Gita itself preaches strong Vaishnavite monotheism.

And for Cogden to understand the nature of what Hinduism is, and not the proproganda what is presented, please see http://www.himalayanacademy.com/resources/books/dws/M02.html. I believe that you are Mormon and many do not consider Mormonism to be part of Christianity. I withold judgment on that as I am not familiar with Mormonism, as you are not familiar with Hinduism. Also see the commentary on wikpedia's Vishnu sahasranama; it shows that Vishnu and Shiva are one and the same. Thank you.

I appreciate the comments and information. Note, however, that I never suggested Hinduism was necessarily polytheistic, only that it was pagan. There are lots of monotheistic, or even atheistic, pagans in the world. And I want to make it clear that I understand that many Hindus don't like to be called pagan. The word pagan is kind of a touchy word, like oriental, that probably shouldn't be used unless the person or group to which it applies happens to like or use the word, even though technically Hindus are pagans. Whether we like it or not, the word pagan is just a catch-all term to refer to non-Abrahamists, and especially non-Christians. (Note that we are now well off-topic, and maybe we should move this discussion to pagan or Hinduism.) COGDEN 17:31, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
Um, let's not pretend that all Hindus were, or are, monotheists. Maybe the intellectual elite believe this, but historically the majority of people known as Hindus really did have polytheistic beliefs. Today I suspect the majority of Hindus do consider their beliefs ultimately to be a form of monotheism, but even now we can't seriously claim that this is true of all Hindus. RK 16:08, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

That is again a POV. he reason that Hinduism is perceived as polytheistic because most Hindus follow the Smarta school, which follows Advaita philosophy. All forms of God are merely different aspects of Brahman, the impersonal Absolute which can never be defined. This school is an inclusive monotheistic school unlike an exclusive monotheistic school. (please see the monotheism article.

Thank you.

Raj2004 02:23, 15 December 2005 (UTC)

No problem. Yes, perhaps pagan has a negative connotation. Hindus have also a term for people who they considered to not to follow the Vedic order, mleechas or yavanas. Perhaps it is similar to calling someone a Gentile.(Judaism) It may have offensive connotations but perhaps it means someone who followed non-Jewish traditions. As I see it, pagan meant non-Abrhamanic religions and non-other recognized religions of the world, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. To call half the population pagan seems odd. I conceived of pagan as meaning to be animistic traditions or spirit worship or Hellenic worship. But some interpret paganism to be any non-Christian religion as well. Under that definition, Jews and Muslims would be pagans. Some extreme Christians would consider pagans to include even Mormons and Jehovah's witnesses (they deny the Holy Trinity)(see wikpedia article on paganism) So I think pagan, as seen in the wikpedia article has a very broad definition. So thus, I would avoid using that term as pagan has a broad definition (from my interpretation to mean Greek and animism) to your interpretation(non-Abrahmanic) to yet another definition(non-Christian)

Polytheism[edit]

Polytheism content should probably not be here. If no one comments, I will likely merge such content elsewhere. (Sam Spade | talk | contributions) 13:31, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I agree. The polytheism material is interesting but doesn't belong on this page. There really are two unrelated issues: (1) Do deities have physical gender? (2) Among monotheists who do not believe their deity has physical gender, what are the various attitudes towards using gender-based language and imagery for God?
This page originally appears to have focused on issue # 2 alone. So the material dealing with # 1 should move.
I can see two difficulties, however. First, some modern strains of Hinduism are pretty much monotheistic, and some of the Hindu material on this page is along those lines. Second, Mormons are often offended if they are not classified as "Christians", but on the issue of God and gender the Mormon view is quite similar to the polytheist view and totally different than the views of any other Christians.
In any event, if you do remove the polytheism content, I do suggest you move it elsewhere -- although I have no suggestions as to where. (Lawrence King, 8 March 2005)
Probably to Polytheism, but you raise some signifigant questions... I think we'll need to give them a good deal of thought before acting. (Sam Spade | talk | contributions) 13:08, 8 Mar 2005 (UTC)
In line with previous discussions, I plan to move the polytheistic content to a more appropriate article. RK 16:08, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

Isn't removing polytheism tantamont to endorsing montheistic POV? I don't really understand why you want to move it or see it an inappropriate here (even if not particularly well handled at the moment); can you expand your comments? SC 04:13, 10 September 2005 (UTC)

No, not at all. Discussing topics in their proper article is not endorsing one point of view over another. This article was designed, from the very beginning, to address the issue of how monotheistic faiths view God and gender. This article never was about the beliefs of polytheists, atheists or others on this topic. If we want to discuss these subjects, we should do so in a separate article. RK 16:09, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

This paragraph needs to be rewritten[edit]

The following paragraph was removed because it clearly violates our NPOV policy. Perhaps it can be rewritten in a way which is NPOV, and then reinserted within a place in the article where it makes sense. As it stands, it is the personal opinion of one of our readers. Some sources are sorely needed.

The latter is pantheism, which is absolutely incompatible with any form of Christianity (despite such theologians as John Shelby Spong and Matthew Fox attempting to harmonise the two). Consequently, no Christian proper can refer to God as a female or mother. Additionally, to speak of God as a male illuminates what is the suum bonum among Christians: submission to the Divine Will and obedience to His authority. It is not as though one is not obedient to his mother or disrespectful of a queen's authority (numerous women in the Bible have strong roles, but the various social systems described are patriarchal), but rather that it is more communicative of orthodox theology to speak of God as a King. Far more importantly, the Bible is rather insistent on the point of divine kingship; considering the Ancient of Days on His Throne in the Book of St. Daniel, or the description "King of Kings and Lords of Lords" in the Apocalpyse of St. John. Some believe using language to mask these facts leads to a "watered-down" creed and a loss of faith.

God in Islam "Arabic" Quran - paragraph problematic at best[edit]

This paragraph is not very well written. Forgiveable; not everyone is a native speaker of English. I will try to improve it, but it may lose accuracy.

In Quran God is always mentioned as "He" ( i.e if u read Quran u will think that God has a male gender) But as Islam bleieves that God has no gender so the research has done on it .As the Arabic Scholars say that in arabic the female gender also reffer to plural and only male gender is singular so God is reffered as "He" male gender because Islam Bleieve that God is One i.e singular.

Evertype 09:57, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

Clean Up[edit]

Declaration of intention to clean up this article. Please note, Wiki policy allows for deletion of unsourced material at any time. Instead, I'm flagging with citation requests all unsourced text, in the top half of the article, that I believe to be misleading. Those I know to be misleading (i.e. I can cite sources for them being false) will be deleted in one week. Whatever remains unsourced a week later will also be removed. After that I will clean up the second half of the article. Cheers all. Alastair Haines 11:31, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

I'd also recommend cleaning up these two paragraphs, per my suggestion in the "Shaddai" section below:

The word spirit has feminine, neuter or masculine grammatical gender depending on the language. The Hebrew word ruaḥ (רוח) is grammatically feminine, the Greek word pneuma (πνεῦμα) is grammatically neuter, and the Latin word spiritus is grammatically masculine. However, John's record of Jesus' teaching about the Holy Spirit implies the masculinity of the Spirit, by applying a masculine demonstrative pronoun to the grammatically neuter antecedent (see below).

and

The Biblical Hebrew word for spirit is ruach, meaning wind, breath, inspiration; the noun is grammatically feminine. Eastern Language Professor R.P. Nettelhorst states [3][4][1]:
"Out of 84 OT uses of the word "spirit", in contexts traditionally assumed to be references to the Holy Spirit, 75 times it is either explicitly feminine or indeterminable (due to lack of a verb or adjective). Only nine times can "spirit" be construed as masculine, and in those cases it is unclear that it is a reference to God's Holy Spirit anyway."

The first one is correct in establishing an argument for the Holy Spirit's "maleness" in the Greek New Testament, however, does not do the same for the Hebrew.

Also, I'm wondering if Professor R.P. Nettelhorst is being quoted correctly contextually. Is he making an argument for the the Holy Spirit's femaleness or is he just describing the grammatical case for the Hebrew ruach? I've not seen the quote in context, but the fact that he goes on to list other meanings for the word make me think he's doing the latter. As Alastair demonstrated in the "Shaddai" section, female grammatical gender is a system of classification. A female can have "male" breasts and a male can have a "female" spirit . . . this has nothing to do with literal gender. Drumpler 16:39, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

Drumpler, why don't you look at the entire chapter that Appendix 3 was referenced from-- it's right there?Lil'dummy 01:23, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Because I didn't know that the numbers were referencing that specific quote. Usually when you make a quote, you tend to cite the reference AFTER the quote. I didn't think to click it because the conventional style wasn't followed. Drumpler 04:02, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

I cleaned up parts of the article, substituting in proper grammar, proper English rules when referring to foreign words, etc. I was actually wondering, though, if referring to the Judaeo-Christian God with capitalised pronouns (He, She, etc.) is appropriate for a Wikipedia article? Other religions are covered on this article and, in the absence of a direct quote, it might alienate and offend some readers and editors. I think it is generally good practice to avoid doing so when the article is written from a neutral perspective. Drumpler 04:34, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Hebrew Scripture merge with Judaism?[edit]

I recommend AGAINST merging the Hebrew Scripture section with Judaism since the Hebrew scriptures are used by both Christianity and Judaism-- otherwise it would appear that Christianity in general does not use th Hebrew Scriptures.Lil'dummy 13:00, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

Good point, though the Christianity section already makes that point where it is relevant. Readers who know it already do not need it featured, readers who don't cannot conclude it mearly from layout, but need explicit mention of it. And, as said, that already exists where it is relevant. Alastair Haines 18:51, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

Clean-up stage 2[edit]

Just reporting that, as promised, with one week's notice, I've deleted several unsourced sentences I know to be false (and can cite references to prove it). The next step, as previously mentioned is to remove unsourced material I know to be true, but tangential to the topic of the article. This will be done in one week, again as mentioned previously. At this point it looks like it will result in the deletion of a couple of sections that will have no material left. I will also be merging what remains and is relevant in The Hebrew scriptures section into the Judaism section -- namely one simile from Isaiah. Alastair Haines 06:48, 3 May 2007 (UTC)

I think you are making a huge mistake by merging the Hebrew Scriptures section into Judaism since both Christianity and Judaism share the Hebrew Scriputes. Do you want to give the impression that Christianity is not founded upon the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures??? Lil'dummy 01:50, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

More likely, the impression given by separating the Hebrew scriptures from Judaism and Christianity would be that these communities go beyond the scriptures associated with them. That is to say, separate sections would suggest: the Hebrew scriptures say X, Judaism says X + Y, and Christianity says X + Y + Z. The relationship of Christianity to the Hebrew scriptures is explicit in the Christianity section, as it needs to be, because we cannot assume readers know this already, nor that they can infer it from the way we partition the text. If the partition is understood the way you suggest, a reader could also wrongly infer that Sikhism and Hinduism are associated with the Hebrew scriptures. Another good reason for the merger, good point. Alastair Haines 02:54, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

Elohim vs. "God"[edit]

Isn't it quite absurd that in the section that is titled "The Hebrew Scriptures" someone went back in and placed in the paganized title "God?" For Hebrew words that there are no adequate equivalent in the receptor language (English), the logical thing to do is transliterate the actual word rather than slap in an inferior approximation. Example Giuseppe Verdi means Joseph Green[1], but when talking coherently about Giuseppe Verdi you say "Giuseppe Verdi". If we're going to talk about the Hebrew Scriptures, then let it at least have some key Hebrew in it. Lil'dummy 01:56, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

This argument has merit applied to Yahweh, but not to elohim, which is also used in the Hebrew scriptures to refer to pagan "gods" in the plural. Arguably, even using Yahweh is poor translation as it loses the association with the verb to be (3rd sing masc) in the original. Alastair Haines 02:38, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

The argument most certainly does have merit regarding "Elohim." By context it is understood when "elohim" is referring to the True Living Elohim and not pagan "gods" or angels. As for your criticism of the use of "Yahweh", at least the pronunciation of "Yahweh" or "Yahuweh" is a reasonably good attempt. But "God?" that's nowhere even close to "Elohim". I can understand if the term "Elohim" was taken out of the Christianity section, since most Christians take offense or are downright paranoid of the term "Elohim". Why is it that "Satan" is remarkably close to "HaSatan", but when it comes to the title of the Creator(s) of the universe, that is left up to Teutonic origin?Lil'dummy 03:09, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

I have read many Hebrew text books and articles and they all treat elohim as a straight-forward word meaning gods, a word that exists in every human language, without any exception I have heard of. If elohim is not the Hebrew word for god what is? Or is Hebrew the one language that has no word for god? That would be very odd indeed. English uses a Germanic word for god, for the obvious reason that English is a Germanic language. It borrows from Greek and Latin for more technical terms, hence atheist and deist. Alastair Haines 03:29, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

The details are right, but wrongly applied. "God" is the English word for "elohim", since "Elohim" came first in Hebrew; "Elohim" is not the Hebrew word for "God" since English came after Hebrew. You even admit that Elohim is literally plural, so that alone would show "God" in the singular tense as being a poor approximation. Since the section is about Hebrew Scriptures, then that particular detail ought to be Hebraic.Lil'dummy 04:57, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

I don't agree and I think this article is slowly going the way of the Sacred Name Movement. If I recall, I'm the one that changed almost all the usages of "elohim" back to "God" since "God" is the English translation of the word (I wasn't sure about some sections, so I didn't touch them). I also changed "Yah'shua" to "Jesus" for the same reason. If one were writing an article for Trimm or Koniuchowsky, this might be relevant, but for a secular encyclopedia, I think we should use names that are the most familiar with an English speaking audience. However, I would argue for the usage over the Hebrew name "Yahweh" because it separates "Yahweh" as a unique god when compared to all the other religions. But then, I'd only extend that in sections pertaining to the Old Testament since the Christian Scriptures did not stress this name (if one accepts the majority Greek Primacist position). Drumpler 09:10, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
I also think if one wants to contest such a position, they then need to inform all English Bible translations that this is proper. It is true that "Elohim" is a generic word. Even "El" is. In fact, I think the word literally speaks in terms of "might" and not "God" like our Germanic word ("El" is applied to Nebuchadnezzar at one point and to "might" in Genesis). However, it is an approximation and a very good one at that (little known fact -- all translations are paraphrases). I'm going to fight for the English usage of the word "God", not because "Elohim" particularly bugs me, but because this is the English Wikipedia. As another note, I think most Wikipedia editors (and readers) could care less about the so-called "pagan" origins of the English word "god". Drumpler 09:15, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
BTW, question of interest for Alastair -- is Yahweh Elohim even proper Hebrew? Drumpler 09:28, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

Call the deity that you don't believe in whatever you want, Drumpler, but leave the term "Elohim" where it is perfectly applicable. It is fair and accurate to use the English transliterations of Hebrew terms in the sections where it makes the most sense. The Branch Davidians and Some Messianics use the terms "Yahshua", and "Elohim" so it is justifiable there. And there are in fact Hebrew bibles that do not use the term "God." I would hardly call that an attempt to bully the Sacred Names. Put whatever terms you want in the Christianity Section. I've got no problem with that. What I have a problem with is when you try to impose the terms that aren't used by the groups in question. Lil'dummy 14:09, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

First, my belief or lack of belief in Yahweh is not even relevant to this discussion. Second, I do not have to "leave" anything anywhere, as I have my legitimate concerns that the term does not belong (its not even a proper name). I agree with what Alastair says above and I came to that conclusion before I even read his own. Your tone makes me think you are still upset because of what occurred off of Wikipedia (you know what I'm talking about). Relax and enjoy life. :) And don't take everything so personally. I don't hate you. Drumpler 14:40, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
What I am saying is, the article is for a general readership. If you want, you could use terms like "Jesus, whom they call Yah'shua" if you're referring to a group. Yah'shua's not even proper Hebrew, though, but use it where it needs to be used legitimately. ;) However, I changed it where it refers to the GOH because GOH is not manufactured by that Messianic organization and most scholars/translators would still probably refer to him as "Jesus" anyway. I'm just saying, I think it looks unprofessional if it isn't done with the core audience in mind. Drumpler 14:45, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
Genesis 1:1 b'reshit bara elohim -- in beginning created God. The verb bara is masculine singular. This is another case of grammar rules being broken to convey the reality. The subject elohim is grammatically plural, but the verb is singular to convey that there is only one God.
Genesis 2:4 YHWH elohim -- yes, this is good Hebrew and occurs many times through the Old Testament.
The Hebrew elohim comes from Akkadian ilum, the native language of Abraham according to the Bible, and the precursor of Aramaic. The word ilum simply means the same thing English means by god -- a supernatural and immortal being.
I think Derek has made the most important point -- we are writing for people who speak English, not semitic languages, in an article about God and gender, not Elohim and gender. Alastair Haines 16:13, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

Brilliant. Let's dumb down the article in the section about groups that use the term "Elohim." After all it certainly wouldn't make any sense to use the Wikipedia automatic linking function would it? For the groups that view the Elohim-head as a family unit, the collective echad grouping, is important to their beliefs, therefore is important to put in the article for clarity.Lil'dummy 00:34, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

Its not dumbing down, its clarifying. Drumpler 01:07, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

Sure, with groups that use the term "God" I would agree with you. However with groups that normally use the term "Elohim," when you talk about their beliefs but use the term "God" instead of "Elohim," you are actually obscuring rather than clarifying. Lil'dummy 01:46, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

Not really, because "Elohim" DOES mean "God". You can say they address "God" by the Hebrew term "Elohim", but I wouldn't make it the focus. Drumpler 01:47, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

That is in essence what I'd be doing if I were to use the term "Elohim" in the Branch/Messianic section. And instead of using the spacious sentence "they address "God" by the Hebrew term 'Elohim'" which would make it a focus, it'd just be the word "Elohim"-- and for all those who don't want to click on the link, you could put "(God)" next to it. Lil'dummy 02:08, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

I personally don't see it as neccessary. You can say something like "many Messianics refer to God by the Hebraic term Elohim", but after that, I personally think you should keep on using "God". I don't know. Must think on it. I can't really see a place where it could be included. Drumpler 02:36, 7 May 2007 (UTC)
I used the term Hebrew Bible and provided the autonym in brackets (Tanakh), giving a link to the Tanakh article. I used Tanakh rather than Hebrew Bible from then on. This makes sense because Jews say Tanakh, not Hebrew Bible, even when speaking English. It would be crazy to use either elohim or Yahweh for God in the Jewish section, because this is not what they say, even when they speak Hebrew. They say HaShem (the Name), in the same way their forefathers said Adonai. If you want to use Elohim and Yahweh in the MLT section, I can see that making sense, because that is the language MLT uses to express their ideas, even when speaking English. I can't see that language being appropriate for other sections of the article. However, I can see good sense in it for an MLT section. Alastair Haines 11:46, 7 May 2007 (UTC)
Right. You see, there are portions where "Elohim" and "YHWH" are used in this article, but that's because prayers are being referred to. They are very appropriate there. However, this article isn't about Messianic Judaism or MLT, so I don't find it appropriate. Drumpler 21:43, 7 May 2007 (UTC)
Here's a reall good example from the Messianic Judaism article:
The relationship between Messianics and Jesus is usually clearly defined. Unlike Jews, Messianics believe that Jesus is YHWH in the flesh (John 1:1;14). The belief runs parallel to the Christian doctrine regarding the divine nature of the One (Echad) God. Furthermore, Messianic Jews assert that the Messiah has a dual aspect as revealed in Scripture. Instead of merely a physical Messiah who would save Israel from occupation and restore the Davidic Kingdom, Jesus first rescued the world from spiritual bondage – paving the way for true understanding and application of the Torah. The Messiah will return again – only this time He will indeed rescue the world from physical oppression and establish His unending Kingdom. George Berkley writes that Messianics "worship not just God but Jesus whom they call Yeshua.”[26][2]
In the article, they continue to use "Jesus", because that's what he is known as popularly. Even in the article on the name Yeshua, it takes precedence for "Jesus" so that general readership knows who is being discussed without confusion. Drumpler 21:49, 7 May 2007 (UTC)
  • sigh...* Although I am puzzled as to what hat you are pulling a "MLT section" out of. There was no mention of them in the Branch Davidians and Some Messianics section [3] when I last checked.Lil'dummy 12:47, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
I think he was saying its more appropriate for an MLT article and not this article. However, I agree that MLT is not notable enough for this article, so I think he was saying the other thing. Drumpler 15:44, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

Notice of clean up[edit]

Hi Ann, nice to see you back. Just dropping a note in here to let you know I'm not satisfied with the introduction of "weasel words" into the article. Essentially, these either convey no information, or express an unverifiable negation. Unless you can provide a peer reviewed source that takes a different position to the cited material, you cannot add text to suggest such alternative views exist, or might exist. It's unencyclopedic and speculative to suggest alternatives exist, when there is no evidence of this available. Feel free to go looking for such views, I'd be fascinated to hear of them.

Additionally, references to "the tradition" are redundant in many contexts. The sub-heading makes it clear we are looking at "the Christian 'tradition'". If your intention is to convey that something is the majority and mainstream view, rather than the speculations of fringe groups that may call themselves Christian, there are clearer ways to underline the authority of what is in the text. Christian groups have many well-established differences of opinion -- infant or adult baptism, celebate or married ministers, views on "the millennium" in Revelation, how to read Genesis 1, etc. etc. For 1,500 years the Trinity has been uncontroversial, likewise the divinity of Jesus.

The Athenasian Creed below, in an old translation from the Greek, gives a hint of natural reference to the Holy Spirit with masculine pronoun.

It comes from a web site that's pretty good for researching Christian teaching. Cheers. Alastair Haines 03:37, 24 May 2007 (UTC)


Alastair, I assume this was in response to my posting. My name is Adam - "an" are my first and middle initial. :) Please point out any specific instances and I would look forward to working with you on correcting them! Certainly I hope that, regarding the major addition (one paragraph), I provided enough scholarly publications in support! I'm not sure how the Athanasian Creed is relevant, unless you are not directing these comments my way. If you are, I assure that I am aware of the creed. I have completed my undergraduate training in religious studies and am preparing for graduate school in theology. I'm also a practicing Catholic. :) Either way, I look forward to working with you on this article - and there is much work to be done! Andowney 03:49, 24 May 2007 (UTC)
Good to know you Adam. :)
Pinnock, in the article you cite, asserts the Holy Spirit is ʻnot at all far from us but very near, and who is present with his creatures in every situation.ʼ Doesn't sound like feminine Holy Spirit to me. ;)
I should be able to check the other references next week, maybe some this weekend.
Cheers, alastair Alastair Haines 04:11, 24 May 2007 (UTC)
Hmmm, we obviously don't have the same article. You can reach an online reproduction of the same article in The McMaster Journal of Theology & Ministry at http://www.mcmaster.ca/mjtm/1-2.htm - in the third paragraph (very long), he discusses at length the use of feminine pronouns for the Spirit and even evidences some regret about his failure to use such language in his A Flame of Love: A Theology of the Spirit. You might also check his contribution to Evangelical Theology in Transition: Theologians in Dialogue with Donald Bloesch, edited by Elmer Colyer (I could get you publisher, year, etc., if you would like). Hope this helps. Off to bed for me - look forward to picking things up tomorrow. Have a good one! Andowney 05:17, 24 May 2007 (UTC)
Found the quote you were referencing. It appears to me to be referring to the Godhead as a whole, and Pinnock is not advocating a complete change in God-language. As I stated above, note that third paragraph (and also note that Pinnock uses "it" to refer to the Spirit as well). Andowney 21:59, 24 May 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the link. He is a well-known writer, but lost the support of doctrinally defined evangelicals in the process of expressing unorthodox opinions. That's almost irrelevant to the Wiki forum of course. You are quite right to include notable exponents of minority opinions, and you have not sought to present them as more than they are.
I personally appreciate sourced alternative views. Although I reject most, I cherish a handful of unorthodox opinions of my own. The weasle words are still a concern, but I'll get back to them soon enough.
I really appreciate you going to the trouble to fetch the sources. It's the right thing to do of course, but I appreciate it nonetheless. Cheers. Alastair Haines 15:01, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

Christianity Update[edit]

I re-wrote much of the very weasel-wordy content. There is still much that could be done in relation genderless-God-branches of Christianity. Justin Satyr 02:47, 28 May 2007 (UTC)

Grudem et al v Pinnock[edit]

An interesting link to an Evangelical Theological Society Press Release.

We need to be a little careful of quoting Pinnock as a representative of Evangelicals. He has withdrawn in private, some of what he has made public. It is probably more accurate and less controversial to name him, without labeling him as belonging to any particular camp. He is an original thinker and has his own article here at Wiki, which describes him much better than a label. Alastair Haines 16:02, 29 May 2007 (UTC)

I understand some of the changes. But a few fail to remain neutral in what they assert.
The New Testament also refers to the Holy Spirit as masculine (in the Gospel of John 14-16).
This should be changed to indicate that grammatically masculine language is used in Greek, but it is simply not true that this necessarily implies anything about the "gender" of the Spirit. Perhaps:
also refers to the Holy Spirit using masculine language.
Also this:
unambiguously convey the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and also his masculinity.
I have reviewed the page in detail and no where see Grudem say anything about the "masculinity" of the Spirit. He merely notes that the masculine form is used and that this demonstrates the personhood of the Spirit. If I am missing something on the referenced page, please let me know. You strech by making "authorial intention" to demonstrate masculinity a necessary implication of this language. By the way, I would agree that Pinnock is not representative of mainstream evangelical theology (I did not mean to imply that he is - he is not). But neither does Grudem stand in the mainstream of Christian biblical scholars - he is a decidedly conservative evangelical and this does color his work. Certainly I am not questioning the integrity of his scholarship, but I merely note that while Pinnock may be out of the evangelical mainstream, Grudem is out of the larger mainstream. Just a point of friendly disputation. :) Also, please check the reference to "that 'male' one." That is manifestly not the translation rendered by the NET translation, which is a translation undertaken by conservative evangelicals - see http://net.bible.org/bible.php?book=Joh&chapter=15#n69 and http://net.bible.org/strong.php?id=1565. Let's see if we can remove that translation. I will give you a chance to respond before I attempt to edit. :) Andowney 01:59, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
By the way, the following is manifestly NOT the case:
"This makes it clear that God has masculine gender"
No where does the Catholic Church formally define God as being masculine in gender. This is a serious misinterpretation and should be corrected as soon as possible.Andowney 03:14, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
And Colorado Springs is the culmination of what, exactly? Which mainline biblical scholars, theologians, or academic institutions endorsed these guidelines? Anyone representing Yale, Harvard, University of Chicago, Union Seminary, Princeton? Duke, Emory, Catholic University, Notre Dame, Southern Methodist, Vanderbilt, Claremont? I appreciate that this article is lending an "added weight" to the traditional perspective on these issues in Christianity. Certainly, the "traditional" perspective has been historically dominant. But serious effort needs to made to bring this article into a more neutral perspective, rather than the conservative evangelical perspective it seems to favor. So, for example, it is too much to assert that "The masculinity of the Father and Son is clear from their names..." Really? What has the entire feminist critique of this language been about? Many mainstream, reputable theologians reject this as proper names for the first and second persons. Whether that rejection is correct, certainly the bald statement that "masculinity...is clear" is inappropriate. And some feminist theologians (e.g., E. Johnson) have provided substantial historical evidence to challenge the view that such gender literalism is even the "traditional" (rather than a modern) interpretation. I think it is pretty obvious that I personally retain the tradition "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" language, but having previously espoused feminist theology, I do not believe that this article does justice that viewpoint. Regarding the gender of the Holy Spirit, I don't want to "toot my horn," but we all have our personal projects. The study of this issue has been the focus of the last two years of my undergraduate studies in religion, so I am at least familiar enough with the terrain to note that much in this article simply leaps to conclusions which do not necessarily follow from the premises which are asserted. Andowney 03:30, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
Your challenges:
  • is it a fact that John 14-16 implies masculine HS?
  • does Grudem actually say this?
  • is it a fact that ekeinos means "that male one"?
  • is Grudem representative of broad Christianity?
  • does the Roman Catholic Church teach God's masculinity?
  • who do the Colorado Springs guidelines represent?
Please correct me if I've got these wrong.
Thanks again for your irenically phrased and constructive criticism. I appreciate each point. Thanks also for your courtesy in placing your challenges on this page, rather than editing directly. I have some business to conduct today here in Australia, I will reply on my return this evening. Sorry to be delaying progress. Answers soon though. Alastair Haines 04:09, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
  • is it a fact that John 14-16 necessarily implies the masculine gender of the Holy Spirit?
  • does Grudem actually say this in the cited reference?
  • does ekeinos mean that "male" one, or simply "that one" referring to someone who is a person? (I question this because "male" traditionally refers to biological sex, rather than "masculine" which refers to gender)
  • I wasn't really asking if Grudem was representative of the Christian theological mainstream - I was (half!) jokingly noting that he is not. :)
  • Again, this is really more an observation than a question - the Church does not definitively teach that God is masculine
  • I am merely observing that, again, the Colorado Springs guidelines are "guiding" for those who are evangelical in theological orientation - not for liberals, moderates, or even conservatives in the mainstream of biblical studies (e.g., Stendahl, Brugegemann, Kee, Fitzmyer, Raymond Brown, Luke Timothy Johnson, James Dunn, etc.).
I look forward to your response. By the way, I will be gone next week on my honeymoon :) so if I don't respond for a few days (beginning Friday), please note that I will eventually return and continue the conversation. As always, a pleasure, and I am excited about the next round of improvements.Andowney 04:27, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
Also, to clarify some previous changes. (1) I would consider Pinnock on the left-wing of evangelicalism, but within its broad tent. Though he certainly has "charismatic" tendencies, he still identifies primarily as an evangelical. (2) Moltmann is certainly theologically progressive (though not a "liberal" - he affirms the Trinity, deity of Christ, etc.), but he does come from the Reformed theological tradition. I, of course, am not equating his being "Reformed" with a conservative evangelical understanding of that term. It is fine to remove those descriptions of the writers traditions, though I feel something about their diversity is lost by doing so.
Congratulations on your honeymoon Adam, God bless you and your wife in your life together.
I think your descriptions of Pinnock and Moltmann are fair, however I think their diversity is better expressed by letting them describe themselves. Even if they personally belong to specific camps, their thoughts regarding the Spirit are certainly not representative of those camps.
Anyway, I'll address each of your points as I have time, the simple ones first.
Regarding ekeinos, this is straight forward. The root ekein- means that, i.e. the far demonstrative pronoun. It declines in such a way as to agree in number, case and gender with its referent. Where it refers endophorically to a word in the text, its number, case and gender are determined by the the grammatical form of this word. Where it refers exophorically to a person or animal, its number, case and gender are determined semantically rather than grammatically. The masculine can also be used generically, especially in the plural -- ekeinoi can mean those people, say for example, those Spartans, without implying the Spartans are all men. An example is found in the Simonides inscription at Thermopolae:
  • Ω ξειν’, αγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ότι τηιδε
  • κείμεθα, τοίς κείνων ρήμασι πειθόμενοι.
The form keinon is a dialectic varient of ekeinos. This generic usage is also found in the singular, when the sex of a human referent is unknown or irrelevant.
Now, the question is how should it be understood in John 14-16? The answer is simple and uncontentious, as all English translations, including gender-neutral translations indicate. Demonstratives are used more widely in Greek than English, in particular in cases where English would use a simple personal pronoun. John 1 has many instances of this in reference to Jesus as the logos. Hence, the uniform translation of ekeinos as he in English Bibles. Although theoretically it could be translated as that Holy Spirit, the force of the far demonstrative is unimportant, whereas the force of the discordant gender selection is highly significant.
Regarding the meaning and usage of ekeinos, any elementary text on Greek can be consulted. Regarding how it should be translated in John 14-16, any English Bible can be consulted. This ammounts to at least hundreds of witnesses for verification. I am not aware of a single peer reviewed source that would argue otherwise, or for that matter any informal sources that would do the same.
I have already supplied a Greek grammar reference, I could provide dozens more, but can see no need to do so. If you can find a reliable source that says differently, I will be happy provide text and references to show how marginal that alternative view is.
Here ends my reply regarding ekeinos. Yes, it does mean "that male one" (in this context), though "that masculine one" is certainly a more comprehensive and precise description of this usage and I'm happy for it to be change to read that way. Certainly no one I've read about considers the HS to have male sex, just masculine gender. And, yes, the Greek of John 14-16 requires the translation "he" (which is why even gender neutral translations are forced to supply this pronoun). Alastair Haines 07:24, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
Regarding Grudem saying ekeinos means he in John, I agree that he does not do so. It is the hundreds of translators and translation committees that say that, not Grudem. Grudem is cited as a reference for the even less contentious fact that it implies personhood and is relevant to understanding the Trinity. Regarding Grudem representing only conservative evangelicals, I have to say this is anachronistic. Grudem is merely reporting what the Catholic church (the only church at the time) said regarding the HS at the time of the Trinitarian debates. Although Catholics and Orthodox did later split over understanding of the HS, it was not about personhood, but regarding procession. Again, I am unaware of any significant Christian writer that has questioned the personhood of the HS. Grudem merely represents the unanimous Christian view on this subject. Non trinitarian = non Christian, though I personally respect JWs, Christadelphians and Mormons who have divergent opinions on this non-trivial teaching of the New Testament.
So, in answer to whether Grudem is representative my answer is "yes". In answer to whether he says anything regarding translation, my answer is "no". The Bible translations make it clear that the considered judgement was to use a masculine form he, the Holy Spirit, will ..., rather than the alternative gender neutral that Holy Spirit will .... Many translation committees included representatives across a wide range of denominations, including Pentecostals (NIV) and Roman Catholics (NJB). Alastair Haines 07:42, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

Let me append some personal thoughts here. If John understood the Holy Spirit to be feminine, he could have used a feminine form in exactly the way he uses the masculine form. He did not do this. Even if someone were to draw a long bow and suggest the masculine is used generically in this case, the one thing that is certainly ruled out by the New Testament is a feminine Holy Spirit. However, this argument can really be applied almost as well to John's avoidance of the neuter itself. If he understood the HS to be without gender, it would be quite odd for him to break grammatical agreement and use a masculine form. By doing this, he'd be more likely to introduce one kind of error (perception of a HS with gender), than he would be to correct another (impersonal HS).

It is also worth noting that Jesus could have done exactly the same thing in Hebrew and Aramaic as John did in Greek. The Semitic languages do not distinguish case in demonstrative pronouns, nor gender in the plural. However they do distinguish gender in the singular, which is what John is quoting in Greek. Hence Jesus could have said, zeh ... ruach in Hebrew (or its analogy in Aramaic, which has the same force as the Greek. Grammar requires zot ... ruach -- feminine agreement. If Jesus said this, it would stand out in John's memory, and would have formed the authority for John's unusual Greek. Interestingly, since the Semitic languages only have masc and fem, "personhood" as a rationale for such a pronoun selection by Jesus is much less likely. Also, a feminine HS would be ruled out even more obviously. The more we push down the line of the NT translating Jesus' Aramaic words, the more remote a female HS becomes, and the more likely a masculine HS becomes. Alastair Haines 08:05, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

I notice I left out of the list of points you'd made, a whole range of comments regarding feminist opinions, associated with claims that the existing article is biased towards conservative evangelicals. I'll address this briefly now.
This article is about God and gender. When I came to it, I saw dismissive and inaccurate coverage of Christian treatment of the Greek text of the New Testament, prominance given to known heresies like gnosticism, misquoting of the CCC, and feminist opinions expressed in a way that almost any Christian would consider blasphemous. Not only did I see that, I also saw the talk page was full of people making exactly the same observations. Instead of adding to the complaints, I decided I'd correct at least the Greek material, since I'm comfortable with Greek and it goes right to the heart of the issue. Christianity is defined by the New Testament, and the witness of Christian translators is effectively unanimous regarding the gender of the Holy Spirit in John.
As time has gone on, I've realized the first responsibility we have in a Wiki article is to accurately and fairly represent any official, majority or dominant position; after that, it is excellent to fairly present any notable criticisms. The cart should not be put before the horse. The criticisms sound much more intelligent and useful if they are not aimed at paper tigers. Also, any and every divergent opinion does not automatically achieve notability. They must be verifiable and relevant, as well as notable. Finally, ideally there is space for rights of reply if these are relevant to any debate.
There are evangelical feminists who would not question that the Holy Spirit is masculine, and yet would claim roles in church based on what that HS has given them to contribute to the glory of God and the benefit of their congregations. Although I disagree with them regarding roles, they are possibly the largest group of feminists within Christianity and they write a great deal. If we are to consider Christian feminism (which is not the topic of the article), these men and women have as much right to assert the masculinity of the spirit as other feminists who may deny this. But covering the views of feminists is not particularly notable in and of itself, unless the topic of the article includes feminism.
There are some big questions we can address at this article. Several major religions have taken their material to main articles elsewhere. Perhaps it is only fair that Christianity does the same. That would give more space to cover more minority views. Perhaps Gender in Bible translation needs its own article also. There is certainly a great deal of material on that now.
Regarding gender in Bible translation, the big debates have mainly been about whether to translate passages refering to both men and women in gender inclusive rather than generic masculine ways (in other words, consideration of the challenges provided by evangelical feminists). Most of this is definitely beyond the scope of this article. The Colorado Springs material is more relevant to those issues than to the gender of God. As you can see, masculine reference to God only gets one line -- it is to be retained.
Feminism is quite compatible with Buddhism and Hinduism, but not with Confucianism (if it is a religion) or Abrahamic religion, if the scriptures which define religions are taken seriously. If the scriptures are not taken seriously, it's arguable whether such opinions actually reflect the religions they purport to represent. If the Old and New Testaments and Qur'an are taken seriously, most feminisms are incompatible with them. This is one of the reasons mainstream feminism condemns the patriarchal structures promoted by Abrahamic religions. The Bible expresses views regarding gender, which are opposed to several feminist ideals. It is hard to do justice to both feminism and the Bible.
You've shared a little of your personal experience, let me share this of mine. I love non-Christian feminists. They see the patriarchy of the Bible for what it is, and reject it. They are free to evaluate the Biblical text objectively, because they are not bound in any way to agreeing with it, or conforming to its prescriptions for behaviour. Christian feminists are often hard to deal with, though, because they are trying to reconcile contradictory material. They value the ideals of both feminism and the Bible, but end up having to compromise ideals in both areas. They are too smart and passionate to do this blatantly. They have to reinterpret their sources to be more favourable to one another, it all gets very complicated.
Well, you could well understand these issues much better than me. Suffice it to say, I'm as committed to the simple majority Christian view being articulated without speculative possibilities being used to weasle it, as you are committed to giving a voice to feminists within Christianity. I'll stop here, you should have the last word for a week or two. Your honeymoon is more important than this article. And our continuing to interact is more important than making quick decisions. Over to you for a free shot at my ideas, and I look forward to you getting back. Cheers. Alastair Haines 09:31, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
Wow a lot to respond to here. Here a few sources in response. Though the nature of their article certainly argues for retaining masculine pronouns for the Holy Spirit, Kimel and Hook state "short of a compelling theological argument for the unique symbolization or embodiment of a divine feminine principle in the hypostasis of the Holy Spirt--a possiblity we cannot rule out be theolinguistic considerations alone..." Alvin. F. Kimel Jr. & Donald D. Hook, "The Pronouns of Deity: A Theolinguistic Critique of Feminist Proposals," in Alvin F. Kimel Jr., ed., This Is My Name Forever: The Trinity & Gender Language for God, (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2001), 77. (By the way, see their whole article for precisely the argument that masculine, rather than neuter, language is appropriate to convey a deity who is beyond gender - and these guys are hard-core traditionalists!!!) And in his article in the same book, "Is God Sexual? Human Embodiment & the Christian Conception of God," Stanley Grenz (who ultimately rejects exclusively feminine language for the HS for theological, rather than textual, reasons) says:
Not only is the word Spirit devoid of the overtly masculine sense found in "Father" and "Son," the Hebrew term for "spirit" (ruach) is grammatically feminine. In addition, the Bible sometimes symbolizes the Spirit by feminine images, such as fire or a dove... (p. 203)
So I will both concede and withhold a few points. First, you make a leap which cannot be justified by historical-critical study when you suggest that if Jesus, speaking Aramaic, had used the feminine form for the Spirit, John would have followed suit. I have never heard any scholars argue the point either way, but I find it doubtful that any would argue that he did not use the feminine form. But I will quickly add to this that this likelihood settles nothing for two reasons: (1) he was simply following Aramaic grammatical gender, and (2) we have the New Testament in the form of Greek, not Aramaic. So, rather than even attempt to get "behind John" to Jesus (that is a whole different topic for discussion, which if you would like to pursue that or any other further, I can be reached at andowney@gmail.com) let us just stick with John. I agree that John could have continued with the neuter grammar, but I do not agree that he could just as easily have chosen the feminine to convey "generic" personhood. As the history of the biblical texts and the various Christian writings through the ages demonstrate, the presumption was always that if you were going for generic, the masculine was the way to go (e.g., "man," "mankind," etc.). So I think you are making too much of his choice of the masculine. Certainly I agree that the breaking of grammatical rules means something, but I just cannot agree that it necessarily follows that he was establishing masculine gender of the HS (though he certainlymight have been).
Feminism incompatible with the biblical texts? Come on! Certainly it is not in some varieties, but you cannot really be calling into question the orthodoxy of every feminist theologian? Then again, if you consider Moltmann to be liberal...:) By the way, are you familiar with Radical Orthodoxy (i.e., movement associated with Milbank, Pickstock, Ward, etc.)? That would be my own positioning on the theological spectrum, with a healthy dose of post-liberalism (Frei, Lindbeck, etc.). By the way, I'm also Catholic. Having positioned myself, I am immensely appreciative of the need to clearly define boundaries around the definition of "Christian," even from an "encyclopedic" perspective. Let's get real here - if you are not a trinitarian, you are not historically speaking a "Christian." Ditto on the confession of the incarnation. Now, you can take different perspectives on the Trinity, emphasizing the unity (Augustine, Barth, Rahner) or the diversity (Cappodocians, Zizioulas, Moltmann) - but there are boundaries. I agree that a great deal of "feminist theology," (not just Mary Daly for example, but also Rosemary Radford Ruether) fall well outside the bounds of historic Christianity. On the other hand, someone like Elizabeth Johnson is progressive and innovative, but orthodox on the Trinity and incarnation. And she isn't an "evangelical" feminist (on the other hand, Mollenkott is often listed as an evangelical feminist, and she is to the point now where she's not really even orthodox!). I just want to avoid broad brush strokes.
I don't think, in this discussion, there is any question where my personal perspective falls (I might have to e-mail you one of my papers on the topic some time, if you like - it's always helpful to get a scholarly critique from a different perspective), but I don't think I'm overstating my case. I recognize that the use of feminine langauge/pronouns/imagery for the Spirit is not "mainstream" or "traditional," but not only is it not heretical, I don't think it can be defined as "heterodox." Certainly it cannot be considered heterodox from a Catholic perspective. Again, you are arguing for the traditional, majority viewpoint - and an encyclopedia should not be afraid to declare which viewpoint is the traditional, majority one. And if anyone asked you to even cite sources to suggest that your perspective is traditional or majority, I would tell them they need to take an intro. course on historical theology! But I just don't like the language which seems to imply that your understanding is the necessary implication of these texts in John, which are hardly the only part of Scripture or Sacred Tradition to be brought about on the matter, and which are not, I am arguing, really trying to make an assertion regarding the gender of the HS. Does it have implications for the HS's gender? Perhaps! Does it give us a definitive statement? Hardly! Andowney 20:08, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
Further, I would like to note that it was not my intention to argue for a feminist perspective (or any perspective, really) in my editorial changes using "weasel-words." Insofar as we all display bias in our writing due to our contextualization, I applaud your excellent job at pointing out my shortcoming and welcome your changes! Also, though I have been influenced by feminist theology in the past (esp. E.A. Johnson), I would not really regard myself as "doing" feminist theology (in any primary sense) in my constructive work. Feminist concerns actually have little to do with my perspective on the Spirit (let me know if you want that paper which explains my reasoning....hehehe)Andowney 20:15, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
Great work Adam. Nice sources there too. We have lots of common ground, including openness to engaging with diverse views. I did promise I'd let you have the last word until you return. That gives me time to locate and read some of the references you've provided. Cheers. Alastair Haines 09:33, 31 May 2007 (UTC)

Implications of Divine Gender(s) upon the Incarnation[edit]

Some thoughts regarding the logical out-workings of gender upon the Incarnation:

1. If as conventional Christianity asserts that Jesus (Yah'shua) has a dual nature, then God the Father is sharing his earthly wife Mary with Joseph-- in essence polyandry which is never allowed in the rest of scripture.

2. If as conventional Christianity asserts that the Holy Spirit is masculine, then as above, there is polyandry once again for Mary.

3. Even if the the alleged dual nature issue of Jesus (Yahshua) is set aside and Joseph allegedly never has conjugal relations with Mary (as the Roman Catholic Church claims), then in Luke, it is clear that both God the Father and the Holy Spirit were involved in the incarnation of Jesus, and according to convenitonal Christianity, there are 2 male members of the Trinity sharing Mary-- polyandry seems to rear its ugly head again.

4. If the Holy Spirit is viewed to be masculine as is the Father, then you have a Jesus with two daddies-- the same sex marriage advocates are already exploiting this notion-- they already have a T-shirt with the slogan.

5. If the Holy Spirit is viewed to be feminine, as do some Messianic groups and Branch Davadians, then there is no polyandry between the Holy Spirit and God the Father

6. Conventional Christianity will object and say if however there is still an assumption of quasi-sexual union of the Godhead with the mortal Mary and that is combined with position #5, then there is polyamory which is never allowed in the whole of scripture (a possible exception could be the Millenial Kingdom???).

7. Conventional Christianity will also object and say that a feminine Holy Spirit implicates bisexuality for Mary, and implicates lesbianism for one of the members of the trinity.

8.There is apparently an assumption within some areas of Christianity that the incarnation was quasi-sexual (a combining of a human egg with a divine seed/sperm). Yet Mary never viewed herself as a "wife" of God, but rather as a "maid-servant."

9. As seen in Luke chapter 1, if the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaQodesh) is understood as feminine, conceiving Jesus (Yah'shua) in a human or human-like form by Her (the Ruach's) cosmic echad union with the Father (Yahweh), while Mary (Miriam) is viewed as only as a surrogate mother (or literally "conduit" as in at least one [4]Aramaic translation of Luke 1:46) then there are no conflicts. Lil'dummy 12:29, 7 June 2007 (UTC)

How is this relevant to the article discussion? Remember, Wikipedia is not a soap box. This just sounds like personal opinion and original research. Any sources for this? Drumpler 17:20, 7 June 2007 (UTC)
Derek's quite right, these points are about the subject of the article and not the article itself.
But here's a reply anyway, I work my way back to the article by the end.
Your points 1. and 2. have nothing to do with the dual nature of Jesus, which is good news, we can agree about that and disagree about everything else if we wish. I do hope you don't deny the humanity or the divinity of Jesus, those are pretty major things. Anyway ...
Matthew says Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit (not a very feminine activity of the Spirit). It is clear that Mary was not yet married to Joseph, so there is no polyandry here. In fact, there is no suggestion of Mary being married to either the Spirit or the Father. Just as you point out, Luke quotes Mary viewing herself as maid-servant, not wife of God. I'm theoretically happy to plead guilty to "sex outside marriage" claims here (on God's behalf, lol), but not to marriage. Of course, the usual reading of these verses assumes it is supernatural and that Mary conceived without sex being involved. Jesus had brothers and sisters (Mark 3:32 and other refs), so Mary later had normal relations with Joseph, as implied by Matthew 1 which says they were delayed until after the birth of Jesus.
Personally, I simply believe the Bible. I don't belong to any denomination, traditional, Catholic or other. I find I agree and disagree on different points with every Christian tradition I encounter.
From what I gather of your group's teaching regarding various things, your point 9. is fair enough, it's not logically inconsistant. It does, however, have three serious flaws:
  1. grammatical gender of common nouns are phonetic class descriptions, not descriptions of natural gender;
  2. there is no surviving Aramic text demonstrably earlier than the Greek;
  3. real gender of the Spirit is conveyed by the Greek of John and the imagery of Matthew.
That the Spirit is described as hovering or as a dove says more about our perceptions of what is masculine or feminine than what was so perceived by the original writers. Images are cultural constructions (white signifies death in Chinese culture), gender, on the other hand, is a biological universal. The male role in conception was well understood in ancient times and is necessarily masculine.
The Bible could be wrong, of course. I've just never found anyone else's suggestions particularly compelling.
As for the article, if a point of view is incompatible with the New Testament, it is not Christian, it needs to be placed under one of the other headings. That would go for Mary and Joseph not having sex, for instance. That is a Catholic view, not a Christian one, but it is not relevant to this article. Alastair Haines 17:52, 7 June 2007 (UTC)

And thank you for illustrating my points (fascinating how the both of you were both on this within 5 hours and then within 32 minutes of each other…;)

Drumpler, discussing in the discussion section how Divine Gender(s) effects major doctrines is relevant. If I were posting what I posted above in the article then, Drumpler, your cry of foul might be legit. What I'm doing is called reasoning and putting two and two together. Fascinating how in the God and gender article there’s a section for Mankind and Humankind [5](seems pretty distant from the main topic), yet in the discussion section, God and gender's effect on the Incarnation is somehow off limits? (Also, let the reader with tons of spare time on his or her hands decide who is more guilty of soapboxing: myself or Drumpler? Oh, and Drumpler, you may cast the first stone, make sure you lift with both legs so you don’t hurt your back.

Regarding the Matthew account, the ISRV (which is translated mostly from the Greek) says “…do not be afraid to take Miryam as your wife, for that which is in her was brought forth from the Set-Apart Spirit.” The Vic Alexander translation from the Aramaic [6] has “He that is born to her is of the Holy Spirit.” “Bringing forth” and “of” sound perfectly suited to feminine action. If you are honest about all the ways the words are used in the "trusted" Greek texts, you will also see that the masculine “fertilization” that you imply is definately not the only way to read it.

Your allegation of divine “sex outside of marriage” (but not sex)— well, I’m speechless on that one…

Incidentally, why do you insist that I’m speaking solely for some particular group? Do you have any evidence of current membership in this supposed particular group? Which Group? What is this, pin the label on the dissident?

Thank you for acknowledging the logical coherence of point 9. However, your criticism of it, does not in fact point out any flaws.

1. Those who hold to the view of feminine gender for the Holy Spirit base it not solely on the noun of Ruach, but rather, that in combination with the predominance of feminine verbs accompanying Ruach in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and, the clarification of what Elohim’s image is in Bereshith/Genesis, and feminine Wisdom in Proverbs 8, and the drash and remez of Nicodemus’ discussion with Yah’shua (Jesus) over what “born again” means, and the fruits of the Ruach (feminine bears fruit), to name a few. Your repeatedly saying about those who hold to the feminine view, that they base it solely on the allegedly non-meaningful gender of the noun “Ruach” is simply setting up a straw-man argument.

2. For the New Testament (B’rit Hadashah) the current lack of availability of early Hebrew and/or Aramaic texts older than the Greek texts proves nothing more than the fact that starting with Ignatius, there was a move against the Hebrew-ness of the Gospel. There are far too many Hebraic idioms, wordplays, and acronyms in the New Testament for me to have blind faith in Greek primacy. It’s all a question of: who oppressed who, and who made the power grabs?

3. Your alleged masculine gender of the Spirit is conveyed by your faith in the Greek translation of John and also your outside assumptions brought in to Matthew, but not from the text of Matthew itself, Greek or otherwise. The Female role in gestating and birthing was understood in ancient times and is necessarily feminine. Hence, born of the Spirit and fruits of the Spirit.

Here is an example (not endorsement) of what is being done with the all male trinity viewpoint and how it's being marketed by some [7] Lil'dummy 04:27, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

I could take much of what is written here about me (and possibly Alastair) as a personal attack, however, I am just citing Wiki policy. Discussions of this nature do not belong on article talk pages.
You can certainly address certain beliefs where notable, however, all I am saying is that this isn't a discussion forum nor an advocate for original thought. Discussions should relate to the topic on hand. Mini-essays and the like on personal theological viewpoints do not belong on talk pages. Of course, if you do believe in these things, you are invited to state your beliefs on your own user page or to make a website or blog about them. I am just stating the policies so that you may be aware as to what is or isn't appropriate to Wikipedia. :) Drumpler 05:19, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

It is entirely relevant if there were a section in the article titled "Logical Coherency." Perhaps there should be such a section. That is what I'm proposing. Oh, and by the way, thank you for setting such a reputable example of flawless adherence to Wikipedia policy through all your writings.Lil'dummy 05:35, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

If you can certainly advocate such an edit using proper sources, certainly. However, this article spans many religions (not just Christianity) and might just seem a bit out of place. Perhaps placing it on a page about the Holy Spirit would be sufficient (if the other editors will permit it through consensus). Personally, though, I think it borders on non-NPOV as some people might find it logically coherent to believe that the Holy Spirit is male because they can view it as conception not being implied. Drumpler 05:46, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

Well, that's why I went about the proper procedure and floated it up on the discussion page to see what possibilities it might have.Lil'dummy 05:59, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

Which was the right thing to do. :) Now we can discuss it civilly. Drumpler 06:09, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

A list of Hebrew nouns[edit]

Just for fun, I'm going to list some feminine nouns that would suprise some editors at this page. I'm starting at the beginning of Brown Driver Briggs and working forwards. Feminine nouns:

  • Aleph: `ivchah slaughter, `even stone, `evrah claw, `ivveleth foolishness
  • Beth: bashah stinking noxious weeds. Gimmel: geah pride. Daleth: dibah whispering, defamation, slander
  • Heh: halmuth hammer, mallet. Vav: -- Zayin: zochelet crawling thing.
  • Cheth: cheburah marks from lashes that break flesh
  • Teth: tum`ah uncleanness ... and now I'm bored already ...

I could come up with masculine nouns for sugar and spice and all things nice, but I really have better things to do. The point is that maybe 30 to 40% of nouns in the Hebrew Bible are feminine. An abstract feminine noun can be made from almost any three letter root. Therefore abstract feminine nouns for destruction, warfare, desolation, abomination, tyranny, prejudice, arrogance either exist or could be created and understood, and they would imply nothing whatsoever about views of women or femininity.

The Hebrew word for spirit was invented before the Bible was written. It was used to describe God's spirit in the Bible, because the writers believed God has a spirit, not because this was thought by its Jewish authors to communicate the existance of a feminine divinity, perish the thought! There is only one God in Judaism, and, in a sense in Christianity too.

The New Testament, on the other hand, has the Spirit as a distinct person of the Trinity, conceiving Jesus in Mary's womb. The Greek neuter for spirit is referred to with ungrammatically masculine pronouns. It is no surprise that 2,000 years of Christian Bible reading scholars have thought of the Spirit as masculine. Alternative views say much more about our early 21st century cultural confusion regarding gender than they do about the intention of the men who wrote the Bible.

Have a nice day y'all. Alastair Haines 19:37, 7 June 2007 (UTC)


Early Syriac Christianity had a maternal viewpoint of the Holy Spirit. At least some of the early believers held to it, in that they held as cannon, the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Apparently in Christianity, the alleged masculine view has not always been unilateral. Lil'dummy 04:51, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

Then feel free to propose such sources outside of Koniuchoswky, Trimm or any other "scholars" who did not receive their degrees from a reputable university (or where they did, in their original field of study). This would strengthen the argument, especially where such sources are notable. Your section initially on the Branch Davidians was excellent. Things more along those lines might help. Drumpler 05:22, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

Just curious, could you tell me of what "reputable university" or seminary the apostle Peter/Kepha got his degree from. Oh, um well, how about Ya'akov/James? Oh, well, how about Paul, now he had some education-- oh wait, his peers rejected his teachings. *sigh* Lil'dummy 05:40, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

Prediction: I think someone, Drumpler perhaps(?), will decide very soon that all these people with dial-up will have problems with the length of the discussion and the speed of their browsers, and out of the goodness of his heart will archive this discussion, seldom to be seen again.Lil'dummy 05:48, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

If Paul, Peter and James were posting to Wikipedia, they would have to follow the same rules of notability that you and I would have to follow. The Bible is not the precedent for Wikipedia rules and regulations. Drumpler 05:51, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

Then why don't you propose it be banned from being a source in Wikipedia? Lil'dummy 05:56, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

Where it is appropriate to quote and source the Bible, certainly it should be used. However, I had interpreted your comments about Peter, James and Paul as being a statement that we should enforce biblical rules over Wiki policy. This may or may not have been implied or even what you have intended, but that is how I read it and I just wanted to clarify. Drumpler 06:12, 9 June 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Derek that the Branch Dravidian section is excellent. Also, thanks to Adam Downey we have got some reliable sources regarding the early Syriac fathers. Thanks for your contribution of Nettlehorst, LD, we also have a good example of a decidedly conservative current theologian who explores possibilities of a female Holy Spirit with a genuinely open mind. These contributions clearly fall in the Christian section and are Wiki quality sources. These things really strengthen the Christianity section of the article. They present an alternative view as strongly as possible, without seeking to deny or minimize the majority view or its best arguments.
Obviously, I'm not personally persuaded by the alternative view, but I value having it there. In fact, it helps explain why the majority view has not changed, the alternative position is neither new, nor very strong.
Although your suggestions in the previous section appear to be original research, I do think they are the strongest sort of case that can be made for a female Holy Spirit. That is, on broad systematic theological grounds one could argue that a female Holy Spirit would make better logical sense of the overall Biblical data. It is debateable whether such an argument could ever pursuade people from what the close reading of John suggests, however, if ever it was to be done, this would be the way it would happen.
PS It was me that archived previous discussions, not Derek. Yes, this is because they were long and it is standard Wiki practice to do so. Alastair Haines 00:01, 10 June 2007 (UTC)
I'm not trying to say what he wrote about a female Holy Spirit was illogical. I was just stating it wasn't appropriate for Wiki talk pages (it read more like an essay). The most that can be done would be to cite the sources of reputable people over interjecting one's own opinions on the matter. We can discuss the sources and their notability for inclusion in the article, not whether it is "logical" or "illogical" for the Holy Spirit to be female. Drumpler 00:39, 10 June 2007 (UTC)

Qohelet[edit]

Qohelet is a feminine noun in Hebrew, best known to Bible readers in translation as the title of the book of Ecclesiastes. Although the noun inflects like other feminine nouns, masculine forms of words relating to it are used in the Hebrew text. At the end of the book we are told that Qohelet was a "wise man". This is just one of many examples that demonstrate that the grammatical class of a noun in Hebrew doesn't tell us much about how the ancient Jews perceived the real gender of the persons denoted by nouns of either class. Pronouns and adjectives tell us more, but even these can be problematic. Alastair Haines 15:30, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

Let's Go Again![edit]

So, Alastair, rather than go through point by point the discussion while I was gone, do you have a minute to summarize what I've missed? Also, where do things stand with our discussion? Andowney 20:24, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

I see some things in the article that I think need work, but I'll wait for you to respond to my last query before delving in. :) Andowney 20:28, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

Hi there! Welcome back to the real world. ;) You know I'm researching Song of Songs? :D

Anyway, I'm not sure there's been that much while you've been gone. Just a bit more to and fro with Lil'dummy (Chris), DRumpler (Derek) and myself on the same-old. I've been looking up every word in the Song and entering grammatical information and other stuff into a database. Every so often, the striking contrast between grammatical gender allocation and stereotypical gender associations reminds me of that line of debate at this page.

A friend of mine, who teaches Hebrew at a sister college has pointed me to some interesting literature on current research into gender in Biblical Hebrew. One school of thought allocates three levels of gender to any use of a noun -- morphological (inflection of noun), syntactic (influence on other words) and semantic (gender of referent). One interesting example is the Hebrew for "city" which takes masculine inflections, is referred to by feminine pronouns and adjectives and yet is neuter in reality. There are many examples like this.

But enough! Give us your thoughts. I'm sure there's room for more in the Christianity section, certainly in other sections, and the Bible translation section needs a lot of work, and probably its own article. It'd be great to interact to work on these. Alastair Haines 16:17, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

Well, my friend, I still think you are placing way to much emphasis on the particular passage in John. To make one particular instance in the New Testament controlling for the overall faithfulness of a particular interpretation to Christian "orthodoxy" seems a stretch. I'm not really sure that you have said that a view of the feminine HS is "unorthodox" but, either way, I would think that an baseless charge. Certainly, the application of feminine pronouns to the HS is not an issue of "orthodoxy" vs. "apostasy" or "heresy." I agree with you that the position definitely rests best on arguments from constructive, rather than "biblical," theology (though I am not saying it is "unbiblical"). I absolutely don't think that one could say that Scripture is in any way decisive - the issue simply isn't addressed directly, and so we are left to argue from implications of particular passages, themes, images and symbols. In a sense, I think that an argument from Tradition is also going to end up being the best primary approach for the "traditional" view (no pun intended), though proponents of both views will want to argue from Scriptural implications. Do you think you can generally agree with everything I have so far in this paragraph?
I did notice some discussion of Sophia, divine Wisdom. There are passages in the deuterocanonical Wisdom of Solomon (accepted as fully canonical in Christian tradition up to the Reformation, and still accepted in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy) which identify Wisdom/Sophia with the Spirit (1:6; 7:7, 22-23), but you are correct Alastair that the Wisdom/Sophia imagery generally developed in reference to the divine Son/Word. (Of course, Elizabeth Johnson in She Who Is would say that this is precisely a reason you err in stating that it is "obvious" that only male/masculine language and imagery should be used for the Second Person, as I believe you have implied before.) Among the Fathers and other historical theologians who develop Sophia in relation to the Son/Word are Theodoret, Origen, John of Damascus, Epiphanius, Methodius, Sophronius, Athanasius, Augustine, and Florenski. On the other hand, Theophilus of Antioch and Irenaeus both develop associate Wisdom/Sophia primarily with the Spirit. Speransky, Florenski, and Bulgakov also discuss a "created" Sophia which they identify with the Bride of Christ, whom they identify as the Image of the HS. At some point, I will have to get to you some names of some other historical personages who develop maternal imagery for the HS. When next I return, I shall respond to you response and also try to identify some areas in the article for improvement. Until then. Andowney 21:49, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
I think a fairly objective position to take is that denominations are defined by traditions, sometimes traditions of interpretation, but quite often traditions of liturgical or pastoral practice or of church government. What do Shia Islam and Sunni Islam have in common? Is there any such thing as Muslim tradition, or only many separate branches that disagree with one another? Is someone born to Muslim parents, but who doesn't pray or give to charity but does things accepted in the modern world but haram by the Qur'an ... is someone like this Muslim because she wears hijab? Is someone Buddhist because they burn incense once a year, as their parents ask them too, but have never read any Buddhist literature?
Many traditional practices grow up around religious belief systems and the symbolic practices seem to remain in cultures, even when the beliefs are no longer normative on social standards. I'm all for the importance of studying such phenomena. I find them fascinating. But when I want to know what Isalm teaches about marriage, I know I can go to the Qur'an and discover the source from which several variations have arisen. When I want to know what they think about God, I could interview many people who call themselves Muslims, and may find some diversity, I can try to find authoritative representatives, but normally these are those who read, interpret and teach the scriptures.
The gender of God is not a matter of traditional practice, but a theological question. Christians can think whatever they like about it. Theologians can disagree and compete for the largest following. However, the ultimate authority on matters pertaining to God is the Bible. Despite bad press during the Reformation, Catholics do not believe the Pope has authority to change the teaching of the Bible. The Christian view on the gender of God is a matter of the history of interpretation of the relevant parts of the Bible.
If one understands Greek and has access to the New Testament it is impossible to view the Holy Spirit as feminine. It is stretching things to an extreme, but is technically possible, to think a genderless personhood is consistent with the New Testament. The only people who believe in a Holy Spirit are people who have had some contact with Christianity. However, there have been endless heterodox groups and more appear all the time. Many have little or distorted Biblical teaching. Some have had peculiar views of Jesus nature, some have had peculiar views of the Holy Spirit.
I like the honesty of our friend Lil' dummy. He says he doesn't trust the Greek of the New Testament. That does leave him free to look for evidence elsewhere. Even if we didn't have the Greek I don't think you can get gender for the HS from the Tanakh, or any argument based on gender of nouns for that matter. In that case I'd have to say we just don't know. The thing is, we do have the Greek, and everyone translates it the same way -- He.
The NRSV tries hard to remove gender from the Bible wherever it can. It even does so in one of the John references. It can be argued that ekeinos refers to comforter rather than spirit in that case -- so they left out the pronoun altogether. However, even the NRSV couldn't avoid the clear implication of the verse that stands in our article here. That is why there has never been any serious proposal among Christian scholars that the Holy Spirit is feminine.
Imagery in the book of Revelation can easily be misunderstood, because imagery is highly cultural. Pink for girls and blue for boys just doesn't hold universally. Dove imagery is used by both the woman and the man of each others' eyes in the Song of Songs, ergo dove does not imply feminine in Semitic culture. The hovering is only relevant to the argument because of the single participle merachaphet in Genesis 1:2, which some have proposed could be interpreted brooding (like a hen) rather than hovering. It takes a strained an implausible etymology to come up with that idea. There's quite a bit about it in the journals.
There's a fair bit to interact with there. I'll stop for a while. ;) Alastair Haines 18:28, 14 June 2007 (UTC)
Sounds good, but when it comes to matters of Wikipedia, I don't think the Bible is the ultimate authority -- just Wikipedia principles and rules. ;) As such, I do have issue with arguing for an idea based on "orthodoxy". How do we argue for "orthodoxy"? By the Bible? What about the various Christian groups who didn't hold the same canon in common in the earlier days? I think "orthodoxy" is only relevant where it refers to the mainstream.
I have no issue with a feminine Holy Spirit being mentioned in this article, so long as it isn't pushed about as a mainstream view (I think the section which exists about it currently is fairly sufficient). However, I am stating that I think one needs to be careful when referring to "Christianity" and "orthodoxy" (in the sense, what is correct) based upon what the Bible says or doesn't say -- various sects, groups, denominations, etc. have their own various interpretations of the text which are valid inasmuch that we are so far removed from its original writers and its near impossible to determine the original interpretation. As a general, I tend to let non-partisan scholars define what is a Christian and what isn't as there is less bias in that department.
Its just wise to be careful and not let one's own world view push their writing. We are developing a NPOV article and its always wise to bear that in mind. Drumpler 02:36, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

In broad terms I agree with you Derek. Christianity is not the only religion where there are disputes about what consitutes orthodoxy. Nor are religions the only areas where there are disputes about who does and who does not belong to a movement.

Consider also, are Taiwan and Tibet part of China? China says "yes", Taiwan says "no", groups in Tibet say "no". Some third parties say "yes", others "no". Political, trade and military issues influence what some third parties say, i.e. they are not objective by virtue of being third parties. Likewise, the answer is either "yes" or "no", in which case, although personally involved, either the Chinese or the Taiwanese or Tibetans are actually correct.

In other words, third parties are not objective by virtue of being third parties. Vice versa, involved parties are not necessarily incorrect by virtue of being involved.

As a general rule, when trying to understand other people's disputes, it is widely held that both points of view are heard, and any matters of fact are independently investigated. Often the facts are actually agreed by two parties in a dispute, however they are explained or evaluated differently.

At Wiki, we should be doing precisely these things, equipping readers with sufficient reliable content that they can make judegements. We need to report objective facts plus disputes about the value or interpretation of those facts. There is a limit ... unpublished views are unreliable and should generally be excluded.

The point I'm getting to is this. We don't have to suggest that all opinions are equally valid, they usually are not! The point is we should not jump up and down pointing out one argument is stronger, or the other is weaker. Nor should we work hard to "balance" things, so the weaker argument is not so disadvantaged. That kind of editing is biased.

On the other hand, saying one argument is a majority view, if verifiable, is worth noting. It doesn't guarantee the view is correct, but it is part of helping readers make a fair assessment.

In the case of gender of the Holy Spirit, the arguments in favour of a feminine Spirit are well known, and weak. Including them makes the case for a masculine Spirit stronger. It shows the translation "He" in John is a deliberate choice, not a dogmatic assertion. When the NRSV translated this way, they did so against deeply held feminist sympathies. They had the chance to consider both points of view, and so should our readers. When views are contradictory, one of them is wrong. Often the best guides to working out which way to go in such cases are the people for whom such issues are life-changing. I can hold bizarre views about brain surgery, but if I'm not responsible for performing operations, my views are not dangerous.

Brain surgeons are both the most reliable guides to brain surgery, AND the ones most likely to be biased -- they will want to justify their mistakes, and boast about their successes. In the same way, Christian theologians are held professionally accountable for their views to a very wide audience. The best will be very cautious in their conclusions, the worst will be very defensive. On the other hand, the best non-Chistian assessments of Christianity can sometimes be helpfully objective, however, the worst are careless or show anti-Christian bias.

I'll stop there. There are some thorny issues, but they are not too complex. It would be a strange day if we were to forbid Muslims from writing about Islam at Wiki, because we believed they would always be biased. The bottom line is we need to evaluate the text, not the writer. Even biased people say unbiased things. :) Alastair Haines 07:17, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Context of "Generally Held"[edit]

It was painfully obvious that the "a generally held skepticism" was referring to the "Branch Davidians, Some Messianics, and Other Variations." Why? Because that was the title of that section. To think that it was talking about Christianity-in-general would be to completely ignore the title of the section. I did my edit to placate the nit-picking-- apparently it did no good as it upset other grammar inspector(s). I challenge anyone to show me one group or individual who I cited who holds to the feminine Holy Spirit viewpoint but is not skeptical of Greek primacy.Lil'dummy 12:16, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Precisely! I agree in context it is theoretically accurate. Actually, I imagine it would be unanimous like you say. Therefore, drop the weasle generally and simply state, "this view is held on the basis of skeptism towards the Greek, and the gender of spirit in Semitic languages." Obviously, any quantifier can confuse some readers, because it confused at least one! Be bold, it is what people say, so just say that they say it, no need to gentle it or reinforce it with "generally", unless there is a minority view I've not heard about, is there? Alastair Haines 12:41, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
OK. I guess that's alright. On the other hand, we shouldn't be slaves to those who read things out of context.Lil'dummy 13:07, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Here's the diff. I read nothing out of context. This is what you originally said (emphasis mine):
While being small in number (and not "feminist" in the modern sense), there are some Messianic and Christian groups whose thinking in regards to the gender of the Holy Spirit is, in part, based on the understanding that the Hebrew word for Spirit, ruach, is feminine, and that is then based upon a generally held skepticism toward Greek primacy for the New Testament. They are skeptical of the neuter Greek word for "spirit" (Greek pneuma), and the masculine Latin word, because the logos ("oracles" or "words") of God were are said to be given unto the Jews (Rom. 3:1, 2).
Even though it is spoken within the section you stated, it is hard to tell who holds the skepticism because of your use of the word "generally" -- in this context, it makes it sound like most people hold this skepticism, which is most certainly not true. I clarified what I thought you meant here:
While being small in number (and not "feminist" in the modern sense), there are some Messianic and Christian groups whose thinking in regards to the gender of the Holy Spirit is, in part, based on the understanding that the Hebrew word for Spirit, ruach, is feminine, and that is then based upon skepticism toward Greek primacy for the New Testament. They are skeptical of the neuter Greek word for "spirit" (Greek pneuma), and the masculine Latin word, because the logos ("oracles" or "words") of God were are said to be given unto the Jews (Rom. 3:1, 2).
In my re-edit, it was clear who held the skepticism: Messianic and Christian groups. However, in your next edit, you said more or less the same thing, which is fine, but I felt unnecessary:
While being small in number (and not "feminist" in the modern sense), there are some Messianic and Christian groups whose thinking in regards to the gender of the Holy Spirit is, in part, based on the understanding that the Hebrew word for Spirit, ruach, is feminine, and that is then based upon their generally held skepticism of Greek primacy for the New Testament. They are skeptical of the neuter Greek word for "spirit" (Greek pneuma), and the masculine Latin word, because the logos ("oracles" or "words") of God were are said to be given unto the Jews (Rom. 3:1, 2).
Of course you re-added the word "generally" but at least I knew more of what you were going for. I'm just saying there's a key difference between "their" and "a" and that's why I made the revert I did.
In the future, though, can you please refrain from attacking me personally? The goal of Wikipedia is to make NPOV articles and there's no reason to get upset because someone removed two words from an edit, especially when they were trying to clarify what they believe you said in the first place. Drumpler 18:07, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

LOL, I agree with both of you. I think Derek's reading was reasonable, I also think Chris is right that we can't be slaves to every possible misinterpretation. What consititutes a reasonable misinterpretation? Gosh, I don't know, lol, I suspect our instinctive definition is "if I misread it, anyone could" ... we've got to be more generous than that. ;) Thanks for taking the trouble to show how reasonable your reading was Derek, and thanks Chris for making some concession to it also. I've seen some personal attacks directed at Derek here, it probably comes from long association as friends. I've also seen apologies before ... Anyway, peace everyone! Alastair Haines 09:33, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Propose split[edit]

Half of this article is about the gender of God. The other half is about gender in general in the Bible. Can we split this into two articles, say Gender of God (currently a redirect) and Gender in Bible translation? --Alynna 14:58, 18 August 2007 (UTC)

A very excellent suggestion imo, Alynna. When I have a little time, I will seek to put your idea into practice. Even better though, if would help, or at least cheer from the sidelines were you to do this yourself. Alastair Haines 14:21, 21 August 2007 (UTC)