Is the Holy Spirit female?

The subject here is the "New Covenant Church of God, B'rit Chadashah Assembly of Yahweh" in Sweden, and an article titled "The Deity of the Holy Spirit" which is actually on the quetion: Holy Spirit, he or she?

Veteran readers have already seen some related comments we made on this, with reflect to the objection that identifying Jesus as divine Wisdom is an error, because Wisdom is depicted as female. The irony now is that the NCC errs from the opposite direction. They note that Wisdom described in Proverbs 8 and in intertestamental works is female, but do not know (as we showed here) that every one of these passages about Wisdom were applied to Jesus. The Spirit itself in this time was yet to be bifurcated conceptually from the Word (see here) but it remains that the NCC ironically uses prooftexts the NT applies to Jesus, to argue that the Spirit must be female.

As a refresher, let's note that applying such gender language to any member of the Godhead is strictly no big deal. Gender for the ancients was a matter of role, not equipment; Wisdom played a "feminine" role (that of maintainer of the universal "household") and this has no bearing on the masculine incarnation of Jesus as Wisdom. Indeed, widows were allowed to assume "male" roles to survive and were considered as "male" in role by others. Obviously the Spirit just as readily engages "female" roles.

Mark Smith in The Origins of Biblical Monotheism adds another salient point: "Attribution of female roles to gods was by no means an Israelite invention." [91] Even the OT attributes female imagery to Yahweh (Deut. 32:18, Ps. 22:9-10, Is. 46:3, 66:9, 13) as Jesus applies female imagery to himself (as a mother hen over Jerusalem). Yahweh and other ancient deities were beyond sexuality, but nevertheless expressed themselves in "genderly" ways. The Ugaritic deity Athtar is called in inscriptions both "father" and "mother". The "male" deities Shamash, Istanu, and Gatumdug are called a "mother". Female deities could also be ascribed male qualities.

This said, the NCC article collapses once it is clear that the Wisdom of the OT and Jewish lit is identified with Jesus over and over again. Nevertheless they say, the classical Trinitarian view of the Spirit in masculine terms is "a total misrepresentation of the Bible witness" and beyond appeals to passages like Proverbs 8 which they misplace, offer this suggestion of conspiracy:

Part of the problem we have with the New Testament is that the one used by the Western Churches is a Greek translation of the original Hebrew, a language evolved within a pagan context as opposed to the Hebrew of the Old Testament which was, we believe, the original divine language and which evolved within the context of a divine theocracy (Israel). This means, in our opinion, that Hebrew is more precise and inspired than Greek. Moreover, we have good reason to believe that most, if not all, the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew and subsequently translated into Greek. Therefore in terms of defining the gender of the Holy Spirit, New Covenant Christians are more disposed to the Hebrew Old and New Testament witness of the Bible which overwhelmingly reveals the Holy Spirit to be feminine.

The claim about the NT being written first in Hebrew is so far off from scholarship that it needs only be summarized here. The idea of Hebrew as a divine language (despite those related Semitic languages that preceded it in the record...) tells us enough of this body's concern for hard research; but in any event, James Trimm, a quite respectable scholar who has served well against Jewish anti-missionary efforts, is quoted next as saying:

...English has three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter (i.e. he, she and it). Hebrew and Aramaic have no neuter gender. In Hebrew and Aramaic everything is either a "he" or a "she" and nothing is an "it". Also gender plays a much more important role in Hebrew and in Aramaic than in English. In English gender is usually only an issue when dealing with pronouns. But in Hebrew and Aramaic nouns and verbs are also maculine or feminine. And while there are no true adjectives in Hebrew (nouns are also used as adjectives), noun modifiers must agree in gender with the noun. Now the Hebrew word RUACH (Aramaic RUCHA) is gramatically feminine as is the phrase Ruach haKodesh. This is matched by the rôle of the Ruach haKodesh as "comforter" (Jn.14-16) and the identifier of the "comforter" with YHWH acting as a "mother" (Is.66:13).

Of course all of this fits in with Smith's comments above; gender here is a matter of role, not organs, and with relation to us, we are all the "bride of Christ" (even men). The Spirit's role in the universe is feminine; this does not make it's gender feminine any more than you men are "womanized" at the wedding supper of the Lamb. But oblivious to the sort of point Smith makes and that Trimm actually supports, the NCC goes on to posit all manner of conspiracies to hide this vital truth:

...it is very clear that the gender of the RUACH has been revised in many passages of the Aramaic to agree with the Hellenistic concept of the Holy Spirit as being either a he" or an "it". Thus the pronouns used for the Ruach haKodesh in Jn.14-16 in the Peshitta are all masculine. However, the hand of revision is very clear. For example while both the Peshitta and Old Syriac have "he" in Jn.16:8 the Old Syriac has "she" just a few verses further down in 16:13 while the Peshitta has "he". oreover there are many passages in which the Peshitta itself pairs the Ruach haKodesh with feminine verbs and/or feminine modifiers.

The Old Syriac and Peshitta are of course later versions of the NT and just one of many; nevertheless there is nothing "Hellenistic" about masculinity and the Spirit; no more so than it is "Hellenistic" for Wisdom to be incarnated as a male. This and the above is why Trimm, as the NCC admits, "is of the view that whilst the Holy Spirit is 'spiritually female', She is 'sexually neuter'." But no, they say, "She is both spiritually and sexually female" (though what organs make a spirit female we can only guess).

From here the NCC article goes on to cite many points about feminine Wisdom from the OT (Proverbs 8 especially) and the intertestamental lit (Wisdom of Solomon in particular, which they believe was probably authored by Solomon), still unaware that all of this was said not of the Spirit in the NT but was applied to the very male-incarnated Jesus.

They step into heresy by regarding this female Spirit as a "special creation", not uncreated like Jesus, they say; ironic again since by proper application of the passages, they end up making Jesus "created" as well and become full-fledged Arians.

Then they close with this:

However, we are also told that the Holy Spirit is SEVEN, something that the formulators of the classical Trinitarian doctrine entirely missed: "And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth" (Rev.5:6, KJV)....Most commentators have tried to explain these passages away by saying that the Spirit of God is seven-fold without explaining exactly what that means. And whilst that is certainly one sense of the meaning, there can be no doubt that we are dealing - as in the Godhead sense generally - both seven influences as well as seven Personages. What this means is that the Holy Spirit is Seven-in-One just as the Godhead is Three-in-One.

Realy? What about a "spirit of fear" (2 Tim. 1:7) or a "spirit of bondage" (Rom. 8:15) or a "spirit of meekness" (Gal. 6:1). No, the 7 spirits are nowhere identified with the Holy Spirit. Think rather of seven influences of God. That's more contextual.

  • NCCG has issued a reply to the above; see here for our retort.

    -JPH