God the Woman?

The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) will be familiar to the majority of us, as will the use of it’s imagery to portray God as a loving, providing, merciful Father.

The three verses preceding the story read:

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
(Luke 15:8-10 ESV)

I must have heard this story countless times and again heard the emphasis on a God who seeks the beloved. But never, not once, have I heard any discussion around the fact that here a woman is portraying God. A woman.

Another example might be that of Jesus description of the Kingdom of Heaven. One of his best known analogies is that of a mustard seed which a man plants and it becomes a huge tree (Matthew 13:31-32). The passage continues:

He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
(Matthew 13:33 ESV)

A woman kneads yeast into three loaves of bread until it all rises. A woman.

Somewhere in Christian history we latched on to one idea of the nature of God and neglected the other. Were we right to do so? How different would our faith story look if the prodigal son had returned home to his mother? Is it possible to hold the images in tension? 

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2 thoughts on “God the Woman?

  1. Fun fact: most of the language used to describe the Holy Spirit suggested feminine overtones in the original languages. If the HS is a counselor, comforter, encourager, and nurturer, this makes a good deal of sense. Also, some of the Hebrew words in the OT literally translate as “FatherMother God.” We were absolutely incorrect to neglect the feminine nature of God, and it’s been staring us in the face since Genesis. How else could men AND women be made in the image of God unless there were feminine traits as well? I’m not sure it’s appropriate to change the story of the lost son as you suggest, since most scholars agree that Jesus specifically depicts the parent as a father. However, in terms of holding the images in tension, I find it no different than wrapping one’s mind around the Trinity. At the risk of “putting God in a box,” one essential characteristic of the Godhead is a healthy, loving relationship enjoying itself. The Father gives to the Son, the Son obediently responds and gives to the Father, etc. Incorporating feminine elements to that relationship and ascribing them to the HS isn’t terribly outlandish. Heaven is most frequently referred to as a kingdom and a family. The danger comes in separating God the Father into a husband figure, the HS into a wife, and Christ as the Son. Doesn’t quite work that way. Really smart people who have debated over many a pint for centuries could tell you more clearly than I can here, but I’d be happy to grab a pint when you get here and we can pick up where we left off…

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