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04 May 2012

Jesus and the Gendering of the Divine

The monotheizing of God ironically means the abstracting of the divine. In animistic and pantheistic religions, each aspect of the divine can be compartmentalized into a distinct entity. Even separate deities could carry multiple epithets (i.e. titles or attributions). For example, among the Greek goddess Athena's many epithets were Athena Parthenos ("Athena the Virgin") and Athena Polias ("Athena [Protector] of the City"). In monotheism, all of those aspects are collapsed into a single being.

In orthodox Christian theology, the divine is realized in the man (i.e. not a woman) Jesus of Nazareth. This has tended to reinforce the patriarchal nature of Christianity in particular but all monotheistic religions broadly because of the historical and global influence of Christianity. What does this mean for the feminine aspects (or lack thereof) of the divine? There certainly are veins of the feminine in Christianity. Think Sophia in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Deuterocanonical books. Think Mary, Mother of God, in the Roman and Eastern traditions. By and large, however, Jesus' gender is constraining.

Just some random thoughts that I hope are food for further thought.


  1. Have you read any of Caroline Bynum Walker's work such as Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages?

  2. I haven't, Warner. I'll have to check that out.