In doing research for this post, I came across a fascinating reference from C.S. Lewis. It appears to be something that he said following his 1948 article on "Priestesses in the Church?"
Evidently Lewis once rhetorically queried the late Anglican Bishop John A. T. Robinson. Robinson, noted thirty-five years ago for (then) avant-garde proposals, had suggested it was high time feminine images for God were introduced to balance out the traditional masculine ones. To this Lewis replied ironically, "I shouldn't believe it strongly, but some sort of case could be made out." Unfortunately, I have not been able to source where the quote came from.
So, what sort of case can be made for balancing out traditional masculine images for God with feminine images for God? Here is what I have been able to come up with.
The essence of God is beyond gender. However, his attributes or energy (i.e. illocal manifestations) can come in different modalities - e.g. male or female. In Genesis 1:27 it states that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
One of the descriptions of God in the Hebrew Scriptures is El Shaddai.
Some scholars have argued that in the ancient Hebrew it is arguably the plural form of, “SHAD” - which literally means “breast.”
Other scholars, such as Michael Brown, have pushed back on the viewpoint arguing that: "I own every major Hebrew lexicon and theological encyclopedia. Every single one of them rejects the idea that El Shaddai means “God of (many) breasts.” Unfortunately, Brown does not give quotes on why they reject the idea.
However, Susan Pigott in her blog post article "El Shaddai and the Gender of God" touches upon the various arguments from the major Hebrew lexicons. The various discussions from other people on her blog post (sourced 8/20/21) gets into the nuances of the linguistic debate in great depth and detail.
It is interesting to note that the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon has the root "shad" (שד) as meaning "breast." Shad for a woman’s breast is used multiple times in the Bible (Gen. 49:25; Job 3:12; Psalms 22:9; Song of Soloman 1:13; 4:5; 7:3, 7, 8; 8:1, 8, 10; Isaiah 28:9; Lamentations 4:3; Ezekiel 16:7; 23:3, etc.). The ending "ai" is the way of making a Hebrew word plural possessive (i.e. "my breasts”).
While the plural form of "shad" (שד) could refer to a man's breast plate of protection, another viewpoint is that it appears to be used in reference to the nurturing aspect of God. For example, David Biale notes in “The God with Breasts: El Shaddai,” that; “…all of the passages using El Shaddai in Genesis, with one exception, are fertility blessings.”
Perhaps the original meaning of El Shaddai (Que music by Amy Grant) conveyed the attributes of both the strength of a man's chest (breast) along with the nurturing qualities of a woman's breast?
have pointed out that the Lord’s prayer begins with “Our Father,” a translation of the word, “abba.” However, the actual Aramaic transliteration is “Abwoon” which is a blending of “abba (father)” and “woon” (womb). In this view, Jesus gives a recognition of both the masculine and feminine attributes of God as a source of creation. Unfortunately, we lack a version of the original sayings of Matthew in Hebrew/Aramiac. So, this view can't be verified.
If the Logos became flesh and dwelled among us as a man, it does not necessarily follow that the essence of the Logos is not beyond gender as the second person of the Trinity. Jesus seemed to describe the feminine nurturing attributes of his Logos nature when he said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." Matthew 23:37
Jerome writes of copies of a Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew (i.e. "oracles of Jesus" mentioned by Papias?) that could be found in Alexandria:
Pantaenus...was sent to India by Demetrius bishop of Alexandria, where
he found that Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, had preached
the advent of the Lord Jesus according to the gospel of Matthew, and
on his return to Alexandria he brought this with him written in Hebrew
characters. (Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, chapter 36)
It is interesting that both Jerome and Origen refer to this possible precursor to Matthew's high level translation of his Greek Gospel when they write of the feminine nature of the Holy Spirit. For example, Origen's "On John 2.12, commentary on John 1.3" (de Santos 5; Lagrange 11) has to say:
Εαν δε προσιηται τις το καθ Εβραιους ευαγγελιον, ενθα αυτος ο σωτηρ
φησιν· Αρτι ελαβε με η μητηρ μου, το αγιον πνευμα, εν μια των τριχων
μου και απηνεγκε με εις το ορος το μεγα Θαβωρ, επαπορησει, πως μητηρ
Χριστου το δια του λογου γεγενημενον πνευμα αγιον ειναι δυναται.
But if any should admit the gospel according to the Hebrews, where the
savior himself says: Just now my mother, the holy spirit, took me by
one of my hairs and carried me to Tabor, the great mountain, he will
be confused as to how the holy spirit can be the mother of Christ,
born through the word.
In the early church there is a record of a charismatic prophetess, in the Montanist branch of the church, who experienced the Sophia energy of the Logos coming as a women to share how a revival (i.e. a spiritual Jerusalem) would come down to her area of Phrygia. Epiphanius writes about this third century female prophetess, Quintilla, in the following manner:
…The Quintillianists or Priscillianists say that either Quintilla or
Priscilla (I am not sure which one, but one of them), as I mentioned
before, slept in Pepuza and Christ came to her and he slept next to
her and it happened this way according to the misled woman: “Christ
came to me dressed in a white robe,” she said, “in the shape of a
woman, instilled into me wisdom, and shared with me how that this
place is holy, and that Jerusalem will come down from heaven here.”
And, because of this, even down to this day, they say, that certain
women and men also are initiated there on the site, so that those
people can wait for Christ and see him [themselves]. They are women in
this group whom they refer to as prophetesses. (Panarion 49.1)
As it was pointed out, the word for Spirit in Hebrew is in the feminine. Also, in the Jewish tradition the Shekhina has been depicted in a feminine manner. See Leonard Nimoy's book on the subject has lots of interesting human representations of God.
Live long and prosper with God's grace, however you view this issue. Its the(o)logical thinking grace to live by. 🖖