by Ben McClaren
It is evident that all spiritual warfare is summed up in our misunderstandings about the knowledge of God (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). It can be of no doubt that we have been experiencing a significant amount of spiritual warfare in our culture on the basis of gender. That being said: while I’ve held this belief concerning the Holy Spirit for over ten years, I have not personally recognized or acknowledged its importance until the barrage of gender ideologies plaguing our culture right now.
Paul makes this statement in reference to the mystery of Christ. He says:
““For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32 )
If I were to tell you that Jesus left His Father’s throne to be united with us in the incarnation, chances are you would agree with me—but that’s not the only concept that this passage addresses. Paul makes it clear that Jesus left His Father AND His Mother to be united with us—His wife.
Not only that, but Jesus makes it clear that the Holy Spirit gives birth when He says:
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.””
Paul describes the Holy Spirit groaning with the pains of childbirth in Romans 8 and we still give the Holy Spirit the pronoun “he” when describing the Holy Spirit—even though in the Greek, the pronoun is neutral. When we see the world going through a pronoun crisis, the religious community should take a step back and ask ourselves if we’re part of the problem. As Paul said to the religious community of his day:
“As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”” (Romans 2:24)
Our present culture is arguing about whether or not men can give birth and the church still uses the masculine pronoun regarding the Holy Spirit when we know the Holy Spirit gives birth. We must recognize that we can either be the solution or we can be part of the problem.
The seven spirits of God are mentioned listed in the book of Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2 )
All of these seven spirits (Spirit, Wisdom, Understanding, Council, Might, Knowledge, Fear) are feminine in the Hebrew which is no mistake because the Holy Spirit is female. But to take it a step further, the Holy Spirit is always feminine in the Hebrew. The understanding of the Hebrews would have been that the Holy Spirit is female.
Beyond this, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of wisdom in Ephesians 1:17—and wisdom is always portrayed as a woman in Scripture. Just read the entirety of the book of Proverbs and you’ll find this concept all over the book. Even when Jesus addresses the spirit of wisdom, your Bible reads:
“Wisdom is justified by all her children.” (Luke 7:35 )
When Eve—the first woman is introduced in Scripture, God says:
“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:18)
How fitting then that Jesus uses the word “Helper” to introduce the Holy Spirit to the church in the New Testament! As Jesus says:
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” (John 15:26)
Now, some might point at that verse and say:
“But, Ben, the pronoun here in the Greek is masculine.”
Which is literally the only leg the male-Holy-Spirit-theory has to stand on. It is undoubtedly masculine in the Greek, however, there’s a debate as to which language the book of John was written in. If you read the Old Syriac, for instance, the pronoun to describe the Holy Spirit is feminine and is therefore translated “She”.
So if anyone uses that argument as a crutch, they will have to acknowledge that they have a preference as to which translation of the book of John is more reliable. The question then becomes,
“Which language did John originally write his gospel in?”
There are scholars who debate this one and I don’t claim to be the most qualified to argue my point of view with expertise in Greek and Aramaic, but I do believe these points I’ve just made present a good Biblical case for why the Holy Spirit is female.
That being said, there’s still one part of this argument that I’ve left out—which is that the early church believed that the Holy Spirit was female. Let’s go over some early church writings that regard the Holy Spirit as female.
First, we have the Gospel of the Hebrews—in which Jesus says:
“My Mother, the Holy Spirit,took me by one of my hairs and carried me up to the great mountain, Tabor.”
Concerning this quote, the early church father, Jerome says:
“No one should be scandalized by this, since in Hebrew spirit is in the feminine gender, while in our language [Latin] it is masculine and in Greek it is neuter. There is no gender in the godhead.” (This text is found in Jerome’s commentary on Isaiah 40 verse 9)
Jerome does not call it heretical to call refer to the Holy Spirit as Mother or to use the feminine pronouns. He seems to even validate it. Admittedly, I disagree with Jerome on his conclusion of the godhead being genderless because Scripture makes it plain that there are two genders in the godhead—male and female. As we read in Genesis:
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
From this verse, we should conclude that the rite by which we are made in the image of God is directly tied to gender—male and female.
Another early church document called the Odes of Solomon is considered the first church hymnal. If you want to read the worship songs the early church sang at their meetings, I would absolutely read it. The 24th song in this hymnal starts with this verse:
“The Dove fluttered over the Messiah, because He was her head; and she sang over Him and her voice was heard”. (Ode 24:1)
This hymn not only suggests that the early church believed that the Holy Spirit is female, but it also suggests that the early church believed that the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism was the feminine voice of the Holy Spirit—not the voice of the Father as is portrayed in most of our movies.
Perhaps our movie depictions of Jesus’ baptism are off in that they depict a masculine voice of the Father rather than the feminine voice of the Holy Spirit. After all, a mother can proclaim her affection for her son just as easily as a father can.
For my Protestant brothers out there, the Moravians were extremely passionate about referring to the Holy Spirit as “Mother”. Count Zinzendorf is quoted saying:
God [Christ] is even our dear husband, his Father is our dear Father, and the Holy Spirit is our dear Mother, with that we are finished, with that the family-idea, the oldest, the simplest, the most respectable, the most endearing idea among all human ideas, the true biblical idea, is established with us in the application of the holy Trinity, for no one is nearer to one than Father, Mother, and Husband. —Count Zinzendorf
Not only this, but the Moravians had a prayer to the Holy Spirit that went this way:
Thou, who from the Father hast ‘Fore all Time proceeded,
Spirit, by whom the Virgin Blest The Son here conceived!
Since the Lamb of God, so red,
Is his People’s Brother, And Christ’s God their Father’s made, Thou’rt the Church’s Mother
This is the same Moravian church that converted John Wesley when he heard them singing hymns in the midst of a storm.
When we consider that Jesus has a heavenly Father, we must acknowledge that Jesus has a heavenly Mother as well. Definitionally, a father cannot exist apart from a mother. Either both exist or neither exist.
All this being said, I believe that this is a teaching that should be popularized in the church again. Our culture is in a gender-related crisis because the church believes in a genderless god or (just as harmful) a male Holy Spirit that gives birth.
This is why I say again with boldness: The Holy Spirit is female!