Lately, we have seen core Christian beliefs, that we as believers treasure, come under severe attack. The godly-family structure is probably on the top of the hit list. A healthy family structure is the last thing the world wants to embrace right now.
Gender confusion, dysfunctional families, disrespectful children, mothers slaving like men, emasculated fathers and families with their eyeballs stuck on the meaningless glow of their screens has become the norm.
A family sitting around a dinner table,having polite and godly conversation has become part of the 'nearly extinct' list.
The question coming to mind is: why?
I remember the scent of Grandma's freshly baked anise rusks. I could smell it from the street, inviting me in. The aroma warmly, wrapped around the room. Her big eyes would pop up from the oven with a smile on her face. I cannot think of something or someone that could represent the Spirit of Yah in a better way.
There is a special way a motherly figure can bring a family together.
Every wise woman has built her house,
but the foolish breaks it down with her hands.
Proverbs 14:1 TS2009
Well, there is that, and then we see when the Ruach (Holy Spirit) comes upon a warrior, he would be able to wipe out armies, like Samson or some of David's mighty men. The Ruach is strong enough to tear armies apart and destroy cities, yet gentle enough to be like a Mother.
This left me wondering, is the Ruach feminine or masculine? I have no horse in this race, but I am leaning towards the prospect of a feminine Holy Spirit rather than an ol' boys club in Heaven. What would this imply if the Ruach is feminine?
We have a heavenly family. We become part of the heavenly family through Yeshua, being grafted into His family.
Just like you would marry into an earthly family, when we are the bride (to be) of Messiah we marry into the Heavenly Family. Or we are adopted into the Heavenly Family. Both images work for our inclusion as sons and daughters of the Most High.
There are some extensive studies on the feminine Holy spirit out there, so the aim of this post will be to simplify it.
I have some resources attached to this blog that some brothers in Messiah were generous to share. If you would like to dig deeper, please find the documents at the bottom.
So, here it goes, 5 reasons the Ruach (Holy Spirit) is feminine;
1. 'Ruach' is a feminine noun in Hebrew
2. We were created in His image (male and female)
3. Church fathers believed Ruach to be feminine
4. Wisdom: The testimony of Aldo MacPherson
5. Feminine attributes of the Ruach
Okay, so let's dive into each of these aspects.
1. 'Ruach' is a feminine noun
In Hebrew nouns are assigned to a gender. The grammatical gender of the word for "spirit" is feminine in Hebrew (רוּחַ, rūaḥ).
However, it is neuter in Greek (πνεῦμα, pneûma) and masculine in Latin (spiritus).
Neuter means it can be either male/female.
But, did you notice the systematical degradation of the original identity of the Ruach. The further in time we move along the further Her identity is obscured.
From feminine (she) [Hebrew]
to neuter (he/she/it) [Greek]
to masculine (he) [Latin].
Why would you want to do that? Why would you change the gender of the Ruach over time? I don't know. Sounds like something Disney and the Left would be proud of though.
2. Created in His image: Male and Female
And God said, Let us make man according to our image and likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the flying creatures of heaven, and over the cattle and all the earth, and over all the reptiles that creep on the earth. And God made man, according to the image of God he made him, male and female he made them.
Gen 1:26-27 LXXE
Can someone explain to me, if we were created male and female in His image, which one of the three is female? It cannot be the Father or the Son, right? So deductive reasoning equates to the Ruach as the feminine part of the Heavenly Family.
3. Church fathers believed Ruach to be feminine
This is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination. But some of the early church fathers that believed the Ruach to be feminine include;
- Theophilus of Antioch
- The (author of) Shepherd of Hermas
- The (author of) Gospel of the Hebrews, and
- The Pseudo-Clementines.
If you would like a thorough breakdown of this claim and more, please check out Johannes van Oort's article. I will just look at the 2 that are the most profound to me:
Origen lived about 150 years after Yeshua’s death. He was very well versed in Scripture and defended the faith against many attempts of pagan infiltration. In his commentary on the Gospel of John, he says:
If anyone should lend credence to the Gospel according to the Hebrews, where the Saviour Himself says, ‘My Mother (mētēr), the Holy Spirit, took me just now by one of my hairs and carried me off to the great Mount Tabor’, he will have to face the difficulty of explaining how the Holy Spirit can be the Mother (mētēr) of Christ when She was herself brought into existence through the Word. But neither the passage nor this difficulty is hard to explain. For if he who does the will of the Father in heaven is Christ’s brother and sister and mother (mētēr), and if the name of brother of Christ may be applied, not only to the race of men, but to beings of diviner rank than they, then there is nothing absurd in the Holy Spirit’s being His Mother (mētēr); everyone being His mother who does the will of the Father in heaven. (Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John 2, 12 – Preuschen 1903:67)
Although Origen revealed the text contained in the Gospel of the Hebrews, he did not believe its truth in the same way that we do today. He states in this text that the Ruach was brought forth (was created) by the Word (Yeshua), and the reason Christ calls Her Mother is because everyone who does the will of God, is Yeshua’s mother and brother and sister.
Now, Origen does not always follow the correct line of reasoning, but we can still glean some wisdom from the fact that he is closer to the point of origin (pun intended). Origen and others had understood the Ruach to be feminine (and our Mother/mētēr). He was not the only Jewish Christian with this view.
The church father, Jerome, was in the prime of his career around 350 years after the death of Yeshua. He is best known for his contribution in translating the ancient text to Latin. This is known today as the Latin Vulgate. Now, being a translator he admits to the challenges with language limitations being a high hurdle to overcome.
In his Commentary on Isaiah, Jerome states:
And also this: (in the text) ‘like the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress’ [Ps. 123:2], the maid is the soul and the mistress (dominam) is the Holy Spirit. For also in that Gospel written according to the Hebrews, which the Nazaraeans read, the Lord says: ’Just now, my Mother (mater), the Holy Spirit, took me.’ Nobody should be offended by this, for among the Hebrews the Spirit is said to be of the feminine gender (genere feminino), although in our language it is called to be of masculine gender and in the Greek language neuter. (Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 11, 40, 9 – Adriaen 1963:459)
In his Commentary on Micah, he says:
… and he should believe in the Gospel, which has been edited according to the Hebrews, which we have translated recently, in which it is said of the person of the Saviour: ‘My Mother (mater), the Holy Spirit, took me just now by one of my hairs ….’ (Jerome, Commentary on Micah 2, 7, 6 – Adriaen 1969:513)
Origen, Jerome and other church fathers knew the Ruach was from Her inception, undeniably feminine. The translations and language barriers conveniently overlooked the changes.
However, any reasonable person would be able to know that just because the language could not convey the gender in an appropriate manner does not mean that the Ruach went from being feminine in the Old Testament to masculine in the New Testament.
I am not a biologist, but I can tell you the (Jewish) Christians of antiquity believed in the femininity of the Holy Spirit.
3. The Family in Heaven
What happens when a mother is removed from the family? It leaves a massive void. The family is not whole. A family cannot exist without the life-bearing mother. However, She is there and the family in Heaven is complete.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
Ephesians 3:14-15 (NASB1995)
With my current understanding, Sheol still has to be emptied and the saints are awaiting their resurrection. Then there will be 'human' families in heaven. Until the cheque clears in Sheol, Yah, the Ruach and Yeshua are the heavenly family.
4. Wisdom: the Testimony of Aldo MacPherson
Now, I cannot relay the entire testimony of Aldo MacPherson but there are some unique aspects to highlight. Abba showed him many visions and he gained a special sensitivity for the Ruach, after his accident.
After the accident Aldo started calling the Ruach, 'Wysheid' or Wisdom. In his writings he would use the abbreviation ‘WYSH’. He was the first person I know of, that referred to the Ruach as Wisdom. And that is what scripture calls Her multiple times. This becomes even more evident once we comb through books like Proverbs.
Now, Aldo never assigns a gender to Wisdom, as far as I know. However, Scripture does;
Wisdom has built a house for herself, and set up seven pillars.
Pro 9:1 (LXXE)
Wisdom calls aloud in the street. She utters her voice in the public squares. She calls at the head of noisy places. At the entrance of the city gates, she utters her words: “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? How long will mockers delight themselves in mockery, and fools hate knowledge? Turn at my reproof. Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you. I will make known my words to you.”
Proverbs 1:20-23 (WEB)
Rob Trenchik and Michael Foisset did some extensive work on comparing the attributes of the Holy Spirit (Ruach) with Wisdom. They came to the conclusion that She is one and the same.
They compare Wisdom with:
the fruit of the Spirit,
the indwelling of the Spirit,
the attributes of the Spirit,
the way the Spirit speaks on our behalf and so forth.
This study places it beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ruach and Wisdom are one and the same. And Wisdom is obviously, feminine.
5. Comforter/Helper is typically a feminine attribute
The most common objection is where Yeshua mentions, He (Yeshua) will send the Comforter (masculine) in John 14, 15 and 16. And the common objection is that when Yeshua says He will send 'Him', or 'He' will come to you, it obviously refers to the Ruach being masculine. Right?
Well, not according to the Syriac manuscripts.
Jason Beck explains;
The Syrians commonly understood the Spirit to be female, and almost all Syrian texts up until the year 400, portrayed Wisdom as feminine. Right around the year 400, a few changes started to appear in regard to this. Beginning in the fifth century (400-499 AD), some of the verses in the Syriac manuscripts started to change the Spirit’s gender from feminine to masculine, and by the sixth century (500-599 AD) almost all the Syriac texts had been altered to support the new doctrine.
For instance, in Psalm 51 of the oldest Syriac manuscripts it reads;
“Take not thy Holy Spirit, ruhak qaddishta, from me,”
Here it is a feminine adjective.
The later Syriac manuscripts state;
“Take not thy Holy Spirit, ruhak qaddisha from me,”
Clearly being altered to a masculine adjective.
Beck is drawing his insights from The Holy Spirit as Feminine in Early Syriac Literature by Sebastian Brock. I have also attached a document (at the bottom of the post) that expands on these ideas.
Here are a few other examples from the Syriac Manuscripts:
In 1 Corinthians 3:16 it says,
“The Spirit of God dwells (amra),”
'Amra' being a feminine verb. The later Syriac manuscripts alter this passage using the verb amar which is masculine.
And for the passage in John 14 we see the same golden thread;
But She—the Spirit, the Paraclete whom He will send to you,
my Father, in my name—
She will teach you everything;
She will remind you of that which I have told you.
Joh 14:26 (Old Syriac-Sinaitic Palimpsest)
Even Paul was on the same wave length;
And She, the Spirit, gives testimony
with our spirit that we are children of God.
Roman 8:16 (Old Syriac Manuscripts)
Consider furthermore, when Yah created Havah (Eve). She was intended to be a helper for Adam. Helper was the primary role of the feminine counterpart.
I did try to refrain from using any Apocrypha, however, in the Wisdom of Solomon the Spirit, Wisdom, is described as the beautiful bride of Yah. So this makes them a married couple.
But aren't we, the people, the bride?
Deductive reasoning dictates we are the bride of Yeshua, not Yah. We are married into the family through the Son of the Most High. Wisdom is the bride of Yah and we are the bride of Christ. However, we do not require the apocrypha to draw that conclusion. Paul already says;
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:31 (NASB1995)
Could the mother of Yeshua be Ruach/Wisdom and Mary was merely a surrogate mom?
A special thank you to Jason Beck, Rob Trenchik and Michael Foisset.
You can check out some of their resources here;
Rob Trenchik and Michael Foisset
I attached the documents I used to compile this post.
Download PDF • 714KB
Download PDF • 410KB
Download PDF • 281KB
The Holy Spirit as Feminine in Early Syriac Literature - Sebastian Brock
Download DOCX • 41KB
Download PDF • 302KB
Download PDF • 151KB
Download PDF • 160KB