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Context: A sect within Christianity known as the "World Mission Society Church of God" believes that Genesis 1:27 gives credence to the idea that there is a "God the Father" as well as a "God the Mother"

"God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Genesis 1:27 (NASB)

To further defend this belief, they utilize Galatians 4:26's depiction of the "Jerusalem above" as our mother, or "God the Mother"

"But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother." Galatians 4:26 (NASB)

They ascribe a deity component to this Jerusalem (or according to Galatians 4:26, "Mother") given that she seems to be the bride of God the Father in Revelation 21:2-3

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." Revelation 21:2-3 (NIV)

Disclaimer: I realize BHSE has already done exegesis on a couple of these scriptures; however, They do not examine them with the perspective I am putting forth, ie. the World Mission Society Church of God's perspective and defending verses.

Question: Does proper exegesis on the verses listed ( Genesis 1:27; Galatians 4:26; Revelation 21:2-3) support the belief in a "God the Mother?"

  • Within historical Christianity, the family has always been regarded as a type of the Holy Trinity. Thus, John 10:30 follows the same logic as as Genesis 2:24 with regards to family unity (between husbands and wives, or parents and children). By the simple logical process of elimination, we deduce that women or mothers are an image of the Holy Spirit, just as men or fathers are an image of the Father, and sons or daughters are an image of the Son. For starters, the Semitic words for spirit are feminine, so it is not at all surprising to see Shekinah mysticism developing within Judaism, or.. – Lucian Jul 27 '17 at 15:26
  • ..or the femininity and maternity of the Holy Ghost to be exploited by Syriac and Assyrian writers within Oriental Christianity, both Orthodox as well as Gnostic. We are, after all, born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5-8). Gregory Nazianzus, in his Fifth Theological Oration against the Arians, sees in the (unique) creation of Eve a figure of the Spirit's procession from the Father, typified by Adam, the father of all mankind. Another Church Father, when confronted by an ancient heresy which interpreted Christ's virgin birth narratives as.. – Lucian Jul 27 '17 at 15:55
  • ..as supposedly referring to an impregnation of a mortal woman by a divine (male) being (such as Zeus' rape of Europa, for instance), according to the manner of pagan myths concerning the conception of various heroes or demigods (like Hercules, for example), rejected it out of hand, deeming it outright absurd, since it conjured, to his mind, the image of a woman conceiving by another woman. (I apologize for not being able to locate the source of this particular passage, but it has been over a decade since I've first encountered it). The same idea is also echoed in the Gnostic Acts of Philip. – Lucian Jul 27 '17 at 16:12
  • Furthermore, Saint Ignatius, the famous Orthodox bishop of Antioch, also likens (elderly) overseers to the Father, (young) deacons to the Son, and (female) deaconesses to the Holy Spirit. The list could go on and on (and on), but I shall stop here. Bottom line, regardless of their particular creed or confession (Orthodox, Nestorian, Gnostic, etc.), ancient Christian authors have consistently viewed the Holy Spirit as a feminine entity, and the tradition continues unhindered to this very day, albeit sometimes it can take on forms usually considered heretical (such as Sophiology, for example). – Lucian Jul 27 '17 at 16:22
  • "They ascribe a deity component to this Jerusalem (or according to Galatians 4:26, "Mother")" No more than 1 Cor 4:15 or Judg 5:7 etc.. – Sola Gratia Sep 23 '17 at 12:34
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My approach would be not so much to explain the correct harmony of these verses. This is because I personally doubt that they are related at all. A more useful approach is to review the analysis of the World Mission Society and decide how reasonable it is.

This particular group is new to me, so I started by reading their own material to see exactly what they say about those verses. On their web page we find a section headed "God's Two Images". In that section Genesis 1.27 is quoted, and then we read these words:

The above verse states that God has two images—a male image and a female image.

Everything that follows is based on that deduction, which is clearly wrong. Whatever "image" means precisely, it is obviously singular. The writer of Genesis is saying that humans are "like" God. We have three lines of Hebrew poetry here, and each line plays off the previous line to open up further the meaning of the verse. Image means likeness, and likeness means 'male and female'. In my view it's not saying that there is a male God and a female God. That would be to read the paired language of the third line back into the singular wording of the previous lines and misinterpret them.

The better reading of the text is to understand it as saying that all humans, both male and female, are made in God's image. The proper question is ask what aspects of God's character are reflected by that image. I would suggest from the context of Genesis 1 as a whole words such relationship, creativity and dominion as God's agents.

I think that the other two verses referred to in the OP are similarly misinterpreted. Jerusalem is not God. That interpretation depends on the prior (mis)reading of Genesis 1.27. If God is our mother (Genesis 1.27), and if Jerusalem is our mother (Galatians 4.26), then Jerusalem must be referring to God. That reading then gets applied to other passages such as the heavenly Jerusalem of Revelation.

But to read these Jerusalem passages in such a way is to ignore what the writers themselves explicitly say. For instance, Paul uses Jerusalem as a sign of the covenant between God and his people. Jerusalem is a city, and it is the place where God's people dwell. The spiritual or heavenly Jerusalem will therefore signify the same idea. Jerusalem is not God. Jerusalem is the place where God dwells with his people.

As a final comment, I would not want the above to be taken as a denial that feminine attributes can properly be ascribed to God. There are images such as a mother hen gathering her brood under her wings which have a strong motherly flavour. But these images enlarge our understanding of the character of the one true God, creator of heaven and earth. They do not point to multiple Gods. That view goes against the whole grain of scripture.

  • ". . . the meaning of that biblical text either in context or through a process of arriving at a particular interpretation of it are off-topic." What? Answers can be off topic, but how can a question about an interpretation be off topic? – Dieter Jul 11 '17 at 5:28
  • @Dieter, are you happy with the answers above. I think the main point is not that it's a bad question, but that it's been asked in the wrong place. It's more a question about the World Mission Society Church of God, and less about the raw texts. Hence, the Christianity exchange. – Peter Kirkpatrick Jul 12 '17 at 4:41
  • Oh, I see. I'm new, so I'm not that familiar with the expectations here. Maybe a kinder answer would be to direct Logan to the Christianity Exchange. Just a suggestion. – Dieter Jul 13 '17 at 5:30
  • Last year I was in the same place as you, so I understand. If you choose to hang around, I would encourage you to follow the "help center" link in the yellow box above. There you will find some good guidelines covering the issues that come up most regularly. As to referral to the Christianity Exchange, that does happen sometimes. But sometimes the best solution is to rewrite the question in a way that does fit the guidelines. This topic is on hold, but not closed, so any member can help to refine the question. – Peter Kirkpatrick Jul 13 '17 at 6:19
  • Hebrew, like many languages, contains nouns that are either masculine or feminine. This is determined mainly by linguistic rules about the sound of the word and has little to do in relation to human gender. Thus "qiryah" (town, or city) is a "her" because of the "ah" sound ending and is also referenced in third person as "she" (Galatians 4:26). – Dan Randolph Aug 6 '18 at 21:37
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Some of the verses you provided that the World Mission Society Church of God chooses to support their position are out of context and are examples of "proof texting" a position rather than deriving it from scripture.

The Genesis text itself indicates that "man" includes and is defined by both male and female persons who are created in God's image. Since Genesis also establishes the distinction of the Holy Spirit as a personage of God, it's not beyond consideration that the Holy Spirit represents the feminine aspect of God. Another interpretation is that God can assume masculine or feminine roles as defined by the cultural context of the time depending on the circumstances.

The New Testament clearly articulates that the church is the Bride of Christ, a feminine relationship to the Son of God. References to believers as "the body of Christ" and "joint heirs with Christ," hints at both the husband-wife bond as one flesh, and elevates the status of the bride above the cultural norms at the time.

  • "Genesis also establishes the distinction of the Holy Spirit as a personage of God". Where please? – fdb Jul 9 '17 at 20:21
  • An excellent question! In Genesis 1, There are many references to God along with a verb: God said, God saw, God separated, God called, God said, God Made, God called, God said, God called, and so on! There was one exception. After the general overview of what God created in Genesis 1:1, the First act was ascribed to the ruach hakodesh, the Holy Spirit. So, how did King David perceive the Holy Spirit? In Psalm 51:11, David implores God, "Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” (NASB) King David recognizes the Holy Spirit as a separate entity. – Dieter Jul 11 '17 at 5:21
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Jerusalem which is above is free and she is the mother of us all:

Revelation 12:1-5 (YLT) 1And a great sign was seen in the heaven, a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars, 2and being with child she doth cry out, travailing and pained to bring forth.

3And there was seen another sign in the heaven, and, lo, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his head seven diadems, 4and his tail doth draw the third of the stars of the heaven, and he did cast them to the earth; and the dragon did stand before the woman who is about to bring forth, that when she may bring forth, her child he may devour 5and she brought forth a male child, who is about to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, and caught away was her child unto God and His throne,

This woman is Zion and her child that is caught up to God is the resurrected Christ.

Isaiah 66:7-9 (YLT)
7Before she is pained she hath brought forth, Before a pang cometh to her, She hath delivered a male. 8Who hath heard anything like this? Who hath seen anything like these? Is earth caused to bring forth in one day? Born is a nation at once? For she hath been pained, Zion also hath borne her sons.

9Do I bring to the birth, And not cause to bring forth? saith Jehovah, `Am not I He who is causing to beget? I have also restrained said thy God.

We get more detail in a another type and for shadow

Leviticus 12:1-4 (YLT)
1And Jehovah speaketh unto Moses, saying, 2Speak unto the sons of Israel, saying, A woman when she giveth seed, and hath born a male, then she hath been unclean seven days, according to the days of separation for her sickness she is unclean; 3and in the eighth day is the flesh of his foreskin circumcised; 4and thirty and three days she doth abide in the blood of her cleansing; against any holy thing she doth not come, and unto the sanctuary she doth not go in, till the fulness of the days of her cleansing. It total of 40 days.

This law applied to Mary after giving birth to Jesus, but ultimately it is for Zion giving birth to the resurrected Christ. She must wait a total of 40 days before entering the Temple. This is the new Temple which Christ is the chief cornerstone of, and the 40 days later falls on the Feast of Pentecost or the giving of the law which is for the new creation.

The result is found here:

Acts 2:1-4 (YLT)
1In the day of the Pentecost being fulfilled, they were all with one accord at the same place, 2there came suddenly out of the heaven a sound as of a bearing violent breath, and it filled all the house where they were sitting, 3and there appeared to them divided tongues, as it were of fire; it sat also upon each one of them, 4and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, according as the Spirit was giving them to declare.

These are Zion's children being born:

Revelation 12:17 (YLT)
and the dragon was angry against the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, those keeping the commands of God, and having the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Jerusalem, which is above, is the mother of us all. She is depicted as Zion here because she with the knowledge of our Father, is the Holy Spirit who brings judgement to the earth. To those who hear she would bring life eternal and to those who reject her everlasting destruction.

All of God's new creation are born from this woman and we all come from God's new heavens.

  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. – enegue Sep 23 '17 at 7:36
  • I have added quote formatting (use '>' symbol as the first character on a new paragraph to start the quote, and a blank line to finish). When you quote the Bible, remember to indicate what version you are using. – enegue Sep 23 '17 at 7:41

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