Where Is Christianity’s Goddess?

A quick survey of popular religions around the world will make one thing abundantly clear — humans are naturally drawn to the concept of the Divine Feminine. Sometimes this Goddess appears alone as a representation of the creative forces of the universe. Often, She is paired with a male counterpart. The Hindu Trimurti (the masculine trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) are paired with the Tridevi, female counterparts with and through whom they perform their respective roles in creation. In Wicca, the Goddess is paired with the God, representing feminine and masculine creative energies, and it is their union that brings fertility and prosperity to the world.  Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven, is wed to Tammuz, whose yearly death and revival are reflected in the changing seasons. Throughout history and across cultures, people have related to the Divine in feminine terms.

So why is the Christian God so often described in explicitly masculine terms? Where does the Divine Feminine fit into a Christian worldview?

Is it possible that Christianity once had a concept of the feminine aspect of God, and that this doctrine has been lost or forgotten over time?

These are questions that I am really invested in, not only because I’m a woman and would like to believe that I’m not less “in God’s image” than the men around me, but because the role that God has played in my life has primarily been a maternal one. God, in my personal experience, has both masculine and feminine elements. God is the Father who created the universe, and God is the Mother who nurtures and protects it. These are things that I know as deeply and as assuredly as I know the fact of my own existence. So I have a pretty significant motivation to search for the Divine Feminine in Christian thought.

To understand Christianity, we need to understand its Jewish roots. I think a lot of Christians overlook just how important Judaism is to our faith. A good chunk of our scripture and the associated theology is shared with Judaism, and Jesus himself was a first century Jewish person ministering to first century Jewish people. I think all Christians should have a basic understanding of and respect for Judaism as our mother faith, and I think there’s a lot to be gained from a careful study of the similarities and differences between the two.

I’m not quite there yet (but I’m working on it!), but my very basic understanding of Judaism includes a concept that resonates deeply with me and which I find is in line with my own experience of God: Shekinah, the feminine aspect of divine presence. Shekinah refers to the presence of God as seen in the temple and tabernacle. From what I understand, this concept is similar to the Christian concept of the Holy Spirit, and the two are strongly associated for me. While the word “Shekinah” is not used in the Old Testament, it is in line with descriptions of God’s presence in Old Testament accounts, and I do not think it is unreasonable to believe that this concept, or an early precursor to it, would have been present in Old Testament religion. (Incidentally, the first explicit references to Shekinah in rabbinic literature appear at around the same time that the gospels were being written, so we can assume the concept was established or in the process of being established by the time of Christ’s ministry.) Already, we have found a historical precedent for worshipers relating to the Judeo-Christian God in feminine terms.

But we don’t have to look outside the Christian Bible for a feminine aspect of God. What if we could find evidence that Jesus Christ was actually described in feminine terms? This sounds crazy, since Jesus had a physical body and was by all accounts biologically male, but it’s an idea that is supported by textual evidence in the scriptures and has been backed by biblical scholars such as N. T. Wright and Marcus Borg.

Now, I’m not arguing that Jesus was intersex or genderfluid — Jesus was, at least on one level, a human man, and his humanity (including his gender) is essential to his mission and message. However, I do think that Jesus as a divine being probably does not adhere to the same gender roles that humans do, and I do think that there is sufficient evidence that early Christians associated him with concepts that had historically been considered feminine in nature.

One such concept is Sophia, or Wisdom. Now, I am aware that Sophia is personified as a goddess in Gnosticism, and does seem to be the main personification of the Divine Feminine in Gnostic thought, but that’s a discussion for another post. I want to go back to the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, where Wisdom was personified as a feminine entity, and I want to look at why Christ’s followers came to associate him with this entity.

In the first few chapters of Proverbs, Wisdom is referred to not only as a person, but as a woman. A lot of the language used here to describe Wisdom is similar to language that would later be used to describe Christ. Proverbs 3:18 states that, “She is a tree of life to those who grasp her, and those who hold her fast are happy,” — we can compare this to the imagery of Christ as the vine, from which his followers are branches. In Proverbs 8, Wisdom speaks in first person, saying that “Those who love me I also love, and those who seek me find me,” which is a nearly word-for-word echo of Jesus’s words in Matthew 7. Here Wisdom also says that, “The Lord begot me, the beginning of his works, the forerunner of his deeds of long ago; From of old I was formed, at the first, before the earth… When he established the heavens, there was I,” which is remarkably similar to the opening lines of the gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.”

(It’s worth noting here that, although “Sophia,” translated as Wisdom, and “Logos,” translated as “the Word,” are different words from different dialects of Greek, they are closely related concepts; the most approximate English translation for “logos” is “reason.”)

I think these similarities are definitely intentional, since the gospel writers often chose their language specifically to connect stories of Christ with Jewish scripture. “Wisdom of God” is a title that, although not as popular as “Son of God” or “Word of God” has historically been associated with Jesus, like in 1 Corinthians 1, where Paul says that, “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God.” To me, this is more than enough evidence to support the belief that Jesus Christ, the male messiah, was associated by his early followers with the traditionally feminine concept of Sophia, or Wisdom — and many modern biblical scholars agree.

This isn’t an isolated example, either. It is commonly thought that the woman and mother of many children from Revelation 12, whose adversary is the great dragon, Satan, is a metaphor for God and/or Jesus, with her children representing the church. This is a brilliant metaphor with a ton of symbolism to dissect, but I talked about Revelation in my last post, and I don’t want to risk becoming one of those apocalypse bloggers. But seriously, it’s worth a read if you’re interested.

We have now identified feminine aspects not only to God the Creator (called God the Father in the Nicene Creed), but to Jesus Christ as well. I’m not sure how or why these aspects fell out of the popular Christian consciousness, but I think rediscovering them teaches something valuable about the nature of God: God encompasses all, and exists outside of our human understanding of the universe. God is both masculine and feminine, but God is also neither. God is both Creator God and Mother Goddess, and those two aspects do not contradict each other, nor should our understanding of one diminish or decrease our understanding of the other.

(Note: For anyone wondering, the Bible translation that I use is the New American Bible, Revised Edition. All Bible passages quoted in this post are from that translation, and thus may differ significantly from, say, the King James version.) 


2 responses to “Where Is Christianity’s Goddess?”

  1. The Goddess is plain to see in the New Testament. She’s just looked over because the NT is centered on Yeshua. There are three women named Mary. Mary the mother of Jesus (Mother), Mary Magdalene (the sexually active Maiden) and Mary, of Bethany (the aged sister of Lazarus who represents the Crone). The name Mary and it’s variants are all feminine names and related to the element of water as is the Latin word “mare” which is related to water or the sea. . Since humans are descended from single cell creatures that became the earliest sea creatures our “Mother Goddess” would be the sea itself.


    1. I definitely think that Mary the Mother of Christ has filled the role of Mother Goddess within Catholicism. Having grown up Catholic, she is definitely revered on a level similar to the way the Goddess is treated within Wicca and Neopaganism. You might be interested in reading up on Sophia, the Gnostic aeon, as she’s very much the Mother Goddess figure in that path. She takes the place of the Holy Spirit in the Gnostic trinity, forming a triad of Father, Mother, and Son.

      Liked by 1 person

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