In this article, I provide further proof from various sources that the Holy Spirit has a feminine gender. In this post, I quote from the Old Testament, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and the writings of early leaders of the Eastern as well as Western churches.
I also mention relevant Church history as well as quote from the works of some of the Biblical languages’ scholars that are related to this topic.
Please read the first article on the gender of the Holy Spirit for the main information, as this post is a sequel providing further resources in support of the feminine gender of the Spirit of God.
The Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel of Thomas is an early Christian non-canonical sayings gospel. It was discovered near Nag Hammadi. Scholars speculate that the works as such were buried there in response to a letter from Bishop Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) declaring a strict canon of Christian scripture.
According to Wikipedia,
Athanasius is the first person to identify the same 27 books of the New Testament that are in use today. Up until then, various similar lists of works to be read in churches were in use.
So he was the one who decided which books make it to the New Testament and which ones don’t. It is believed that early Christians buried works such as the Gospel of Thomas so that they would not be destroyed and so that future generations would be able to discover them.
The Gospel of Thomas was written in Coptic and consists of 114 sayings attributed to Yeshua. The half of the sayings are very similar to Yeshua’s sayings from Canonical gospels, whilst some believe that the other half was added by the Gnostic tradition.
Its place of origin is believed to be Syria because of the many Christians in that area that were converted to the faith by the apostle Thomas. So it’s believed that these early Christians preserved Thomas’s writings in this form.
Many scholars believe that the Gospel of Thomas provides an insight into Christian oral gospel traditions. In verse 101 we read what is claimed to be the words of Yeshua:
Whoever does not hate his father and his mother as I do cannot become a disciple to me. And whoever does not love his father and his mother as I do cannot become a disciple to me. For my mother […] [in one source it reads – “bore my body”], but my true mother gave me life.
The Gospel of Hebrews
The Gospel of Hebrews was used by the earliest followers of Yeshua in the diaspora. Those who lived by this Gospel were called “Nazarenes”, which were the earliest Christians – Jewish followers of the Messiah named so in Acts 24:5, in the passage where Paul was accused of being “a ring-leader of a sect” called by this name.
It is believed that this gospel was written down during the first half of the second century and some believe it was composed earlier than that – in the middle of the first century when Yeshua’s sayings and traditions were being collected.
Only its fragments survive, and on one of the fragments we read:
When the Lord ascended from the water, the whole fount of the Holy Spirit descended and rested upon him, and said to him, “My son, in all the prophets I was waiting for you, that you might come, and that I might rest in you. For you are my rest; and you are my firstborn son, who reigns forever.”
Here’s another fragment, of what are claimed to be Yeshua’s own words:
Even so did my mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs, and carry me to the great Mount Tabor.
This refers to his time of temptation by Satan, and the Holy Spirit carrying him is again referred to as a mother. We know that she also carried the prophets of the Old Testament to different places.
Günther Zuntz’ findings
Günther Zuntz was a German-English classical philologist, professor of Hellenistic Greek, and Bible scholar. Although most of his works are not available online, some online sources claim that he concluded, as a result of the lifetime spent in examining the oldest Greek texts and textual fragments from the third century onward, that there was no attempt in the West to maintain the integrity of the original texts until Jerome produced the Latin Vulgate at the request of the papacy in the fourth century.
By using the standard practice of textual comparison, in his detailed analysis of the oldest Pauline manuscript, he notes in his book The Text of the Epistles, numerous places where the text has been altered.
Since I have no access to this book, I had to do some research on what other authors have written about his work. And these claims are supported by other authors, such as by Robert F. Hull in his book The Story Of The New Testament Text, where he writes that Zuntz discovered, by looking at the earliest Pauline manuscripts, that two traditions were splitting from the common ground – Western and Eastern, and that the Western tradition was more polluted [and therefore less reliable] than Eastern.
East and West split
In fact, we see throughout history that this division was becoming more and more distinct until the West and the East parted their ways. One of the reasons for this parting was the disagreement whether the Holy Spirit proceeded forth from the Father, or from the Father and the Son.
The Eastern Church believed the former to be the case, but the Western Church insisted that the Spirit of God proceeded from the Son also. The Eastern Church believed that the idea that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Son, as well as the Father, caused confusion of theology, and it was eventually labeled by them heretical, leading to the split (source).
Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin completing this work in 405 AD, explained in an open letter to Pope Damasus that the reason he needed to revise his Latin version of the Bible was due to the great differences between different manuscripts. (source – type “Tot enim exemplaria pene quot codices” into the search box to get to the passages about him.)
Jerome was totally submissive to the pope and considered that salvation outside of the church is not possible (source). We must understand that all early Western Bible translators into English were Catholics. Isn’t it plausible to assume that the translation bias would have crept in in order to make the Bible more harmonious to the Catholic faith? Especially when they had a wide variety of texts to choose from.
Lost in translation
Syrian Orthodox Church and Coptic Christianity refer to the Holy Spirit in feminine terms; however, those Christians whose language forces them to alter the gender of the Holy Spirit, may be totally unaware that in the original language the gender is not the same as in their own.
The authors who wrote in Greek were limited in expressing the Holy Spirit in the feminine by the constraints of their language. They were not able to express the Hebrew feminine nature of the Holy Spirit as in their language “spirit” had the neuter, and not feminine, gender. In Latin, the word “spirit” has a masculine gender.
Therefore, when Greek or Latin manuscripts were used to translate the word “spirit” into English, it becomes clear why translators chose to translate the Hebrew and Aramaic feminine noun into a “he”.
We see that when we get this word translated into other languages and then make English translations from those translations, the true gender of the Holy Spirit becomes changed.
The Eastern Church
Since the Eastern Church was less influenced by Catholicism, we find in it the retention of the femininity of the Holy Spirit in its early stages. For example, St. Clement of Alexandria, who lived during the second and third centuries AD, wrote:
For what further need has God of the mysteries of love? And then thou shalt look into the bosom of the Father, whom God the only-begotten Son alone hath declared. And God Himself is love; and out of love to us became feminine. In His ineffable essence He is Father; in His compassion to us He became Mother. The Father by loving became feminine: and the great proof of this is He whom He begot of Himself; and the fruit brought forth by love is love.
The Acts of Thomas
The Acts of Thomas is a third-century scroll that gives an account of the apostle Thomas’ travels to India to spread the Gospel. Through his efforts, even today the Syriac Church of India closely follows the ancient faith. In the scroll we read:
And in joy and exultation shall they both be and shall glorify the Father of all, whose proud light they have received, and are enlightened by the sight of their lord; whose immortal food they have received, that hath no failing, and have drunk of the wine that giveth them neither thirst nor desire. And they have glorified and praised with the living spirit, the Father of truth and the Mother of wisdom.
And when they were baptized and clad, he set bread on the table and blessed it, and said: Bread of life, the which who eat abide incorruptible: Bread that filleth the hungry souls with the blessing thereof: thou art he that vouchsafest to receive a gift, that thou mayest become unto us remission of sins, and that they who eat thee may become immortal: we invoke upon thee the name of the Mother, of the unspeakable mystery of the hidden powers and authorities: we invoke upon thee the name of [thy?] Jesus. And he said: Let the powers of blessing come, and be established in this bread, that all the souls which partake of it may be washed from their sins. And he brake and gave unto Siphor and his wife and daughter.
I give other quotes of this book in my previous article.
The Wisdom of Solomon
The Wisdom of Solomon, which was included in the Septuagint, is the first-century BC work thought to be composed by Solomon himself. It has a lot to say about the feminine nature of the Holy Spirit which is called the Spirit of Wisdom. It’s believed that chapters 1-9 were composed by Solomon, and further chapters were added later.
Here is a quote from this work, chapter 7:
Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given to me; I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to sceptres and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison to her.
Neither did I liken her to any priceless gem, because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as clay before her.
I loved her more than health and beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases.
All good things came to me along with her, and in her hands uncounted wealth.
Here’s a further quote from the same chapter:
She is an intelligent spirit, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficient, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.
For Wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.
For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with Wisdom.
She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against Wisdom evil does not prevail.
She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well.
There is only one Spirit that the followers of YHWH get, so Solomon had to have received the Holy Spirit, and not any other spirit. It’s usual for us to identify this spirit only as the Holy Spirit due to the New Testament writings, but in the Old Testament, this spirit was known by many names, such as the Spirit of YHWH, Spirit of Wisdom, Wisdom, Spirit of El, Spirit of Eloheem, and so on.
In the first chapter of the same book we read:
Wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, or dwell in a body enslaved to sin.
For a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit, and will leave foolish thoughts behind, and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness.
For Wisdom is a kindly spirit, but will not free blasphemers from the guilt of their words; because God is witness of their inmost feelings, and a true observer of their hearts, and a hearer of their tongues.
Solomon says that Wisdom is always freely available to anyone seeking her, and “her beginning (in all of us) is the most sincere desire for instruction.” Thus, the desire of our heart should be for godly instruction; then Wisdom will come. We are instructed to seek Wisdom, and a closer love-relation to God will follow.
In chapter 6 we read:
Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate.
To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.
Her beginning is the most sincere desire for instruction, and concern for instruction is love of her, and love of her is the keeping of her laws, and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality, and immortality brings one near to God; so the desire for Wisdom leads to a kingdom.
Therefore if you delight in thrones and sceptres, O monarchs over the peoples, honour Wisdom, so that you may reign for ever.
In this work, Solomon also explains that he tried to get the Spirit of Wisdom through purity and works, but then understood that she could only be received by asking YHWH to send her. We know that we don’t get born-again through our good works, but through faith in Yeshua and when we ask YHWH to send the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).
Books of Baruch
3 Baruch is a Jewish pseudepigraphic text believed to have been written in the first to third centuries AD. In it we read:
Who has found her place? And who has entered her storehouses?
Later generations have seen the light of day, and have lived upon the earth; but they have not learned the way to Knowledge, nor understood her paths, nor laid hold of her.
Their descendants have strayed far from her way.
She has not been heard of in Canaan, or seen in Teman; the descendants of Hagar, who seek for understanding on the earth, the merchants of Midian and Teman, the story-tellers and the seekers for understanding, have not learned the way to Wisdom, or given thought to her paths.
Wisdom of Sirach
Wisdom of Sirach is the largest book of antiquity that has ever survived. It’s been composed around the 2nd century BC and is a work of ethical teachings by the Jewish scribe Ben Sira of Jerusalem.
In chapter 24 we read:
I am the mother of fair love, and fear, and knowledge, and holy hope: I therefore, being eternal, am given to all my children which are named of him.
Come unto me, all ye that be desirous of me, and fill yourselves with my fruits.
For my memorial is sweeter than honey, and mine inheritance than the honeycomb.
It also says that those who obey Her will not be disappointed, and those who work by her will not sin (24:22). The apostle John says that those who are born of God cannot sin (1 John 3:9).
How the feminine nature of the Holy Spirit was changed
In the earliest literature up to about 400 AD the Holy Spirit is virtually always treated grammatically as feminine.
From the early fifth century onward, however, it is evident that some people began to disapprove of treating the Holy Spirit as grammatically feminine; accordingly, in defiance to the grammatical rules of the language, they treated the word “spirit”, which is a feminine noun in both Aramaic and Hebrew, as masculine wherever it referred to the Holy Spirit. This might be due to the ever-increasing prestige of the Greek language in which the word “spirit” is neuter, and therefore can be more easily manipulated, or it could be for other reasons that I will mention later.
From the sixth century onwards what had been a sporadic practice in the fifth century now becomes the norm – the Holy Spirit starts being called “he” and not “she”. Even so, the original feminine was not completely removed, as it could still be occasionally found, mainly in liturgical texts and poetry.
This change is reflected in the history of the biblical translations into Syriac. Thus, in the Old Syriac translation of the Gospels, dating from the late second and early third century, the Holy Spirit regularly features grammatically as feminine.
In the revised translation of the Syriac New Testament, however, known as the Peshitta, and produced in the early fifth century, we find that although the feminine has been preserved in many places, there are also places where the gender has been altered to masculine. Finally, in the early seventh-century version known as the Harklean, the word “spirit” is regularly treated as masculine wherever it refers to the Holy Spirit.
An Ethiopic Book of Enoch
In the Ethiopic translation of the book of Enoch chapter 71 verse 17 which talks about the prophecy of Yeshua, He is literally described as “offspring of the mother of the living”, though translators chose to simply translate this as “Son of man” and put the real translation in footnotes (source – The Apocrypha and Pseudapigraphia of the Old Testament in English, R. H. Charles, 1913 edition, p. 174, see footnote). In fact, the Ethiopic Old Testament contains many such references to Yeshua, like in Ezekiel, Revelation, and in the New Testament – Gospels (see the previous source, p. 175).
Gospel of Philip
Furthermore, in the Gospel of Philip, a second-century work, we read:
[…] the Holy Spirit […], and her children are many.
As for the Wisdom who is called “the barren,” she is the mother of the angels.
As well as:
Some said, “Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit.” They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman?
The writings of Aphrahat
Aphrahat was a Syrian-Christian who is believed to be the first Syriac Orthodox Church father. Since he lived in Assyria, he wasn’t influenced by the traditions of Rome, or at least to a much lesser degree than Christians residing there.
In his work On Virginity and Marital Continence he interprets Genesis 2:24 this way:
Who is it who leaves father and mother to take a wife? The meaning is as follows: as long as a man has not taken a wife, he loves and reveres God his Father and the Holy Spirit his Mother, and he has no other love. But when a man takes a wife, then he leaves his (true) Father and his Mother.
I disagree with this interpretation, but this passage testifies that the early Church father saw the Holy Spirit as a mother.
He also wrote:
From baptism we receive the Spirit of Christ, and in the same hour that the priests invoke the Spirit, She opens the heavens and descends, and hovers over the waters, and those who are baptized put Her on. (Source: Aphrahat, Demonstrations; the text can be seen here as well. Some translators chose to ignore the feminine gender and instead translated the pronoun as “it”.)
The Macarian Homilies believed to be of Syrian/Mesopotamian origin and composed in the fourth or fifth century also describe the Holy Spirit as feminine, and as our Mother:
It is right and-fitting, children, for you to have left all that is temporal and to have gone off to God: instead of an earthly father you are seeking the heavenly Father, and instead of a mother who is subject to corruption, you have as a Mother the excellent Spirit of God, and the heavenly Jerusalem. Instead of the brothers you have left you now have the Lord who has allowed himself to be called brother of the faithful.
Studies in Syriac Theology and Liturgy
In the book Fire from Heaven: Studies in Syriac Theology and Liturgy by Sebastian P. Brock we read:
In the two surviving manuscripts of the Old Syriac Gospels the Holy Spirit is invariably treated as feminine. This version, which may go back to the early third century, was in due course revised and brought into closer line with the Greek text of the Gospels; the outcome of this revision (which was probably a long drawn out process) was the Peshitta, which remains the offical biblical version of the Syriac Churches.
In the Peshitta, which must have been first circulated in the early decades of the fifth century, we find a number of places where the grammatical gender of ruha has been altered from the feminine to masculine, where it refers to the Holy Spirit; curiously however, this revison is far from consistent, and in many passages the feminine was left unchanged.
It is, in fact, only in later revisions, by Polycarp, undertaken at the behest of Philoxenos, Syrian Orthodox metropolitan of Mabbug at the beginning of the sixth century, and Thomas of Harkel, working in a monastery just outside Alexandria just over a century later, that we find the feminine consistently altered to masculine.
We can observe the same tendency at work in the manuscript tradition of the Syriac Old Testament as well. No psalm receives more frequent liturgical use than Psalm 51, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your grace”. In the course of the psalm the phrase “take not your Holy Spirit from me” occurs, and in several of the oldest manuscripts of the Syriac Psalms we find what must be the original reading, ruhak qaddishta, with the adjective ‘Holy’ grammatically feminine; in the famous sixth or seventh-century manuscript of the complete Syriac Old Testament preserved in the Ambrosian Library in Milan, however, we already encounter the alteration to ruhak qaddisha, with the feminine adjective changed to masculine.
In the vast majority of later manuscripts and printed editions it is the masculine that is found here – even though in the very next verse the feminine is preserved in ruha mshabbahta, ‘your glorious Spirit’!
Bible evidence for the feminine Holy Spirit
As I’ve written in the previous article, most of the time the Holy Spirit is mentioned as having a feminine gender in the Old Testament. So here I provide just a few selected verses with literal translations in order to show the gender of the Holy Spirit.
In Job 33:4, it literally reads:
The Spirit of El (God),
She made me;
and the Breath of the Almighty,
She sustains my life.
In Numbers 11:26, it says:
And the Spirit,
She rested upon them,
And these are the ones about whom it’s written –
they didn’t go to the tent but prophesized in the camp.
Psalm 143:10 is translated this way in KJV:
Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
However, when translated correctly, this verse says:
Teach me to do your will, because you are my God, and your Spirit is good [feminine adjective], she will bring me to a land of uprightness.
In the Hebrew text of this verse, there’s no imperative mood but KJV translators chose it so that not to translate the feminine pronoun (לַמְּדֵנִי לַֽעֲשֹׂות רְצֹונֶךָ כִּֽי־אַתָּה אֱלֹוהָי רוּחֲךָ טֹובָה תַּנְחֵנִי בְּאֶרֶץ מִישֹֽׁור׃).
I’ve already mentioned that Wisdom is described as the Spirit (Wisdom of Solomon 1:7), as well as having a personality (Proverbs 1), and with the same qualities as the Holy Spirit. So Wisdom must be the Holy Spirit.
In Proverbs 4:5-7 we read:
Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding; don’t forget and don’t turn aside from the words of my mouth.
Don’t forsake her and she will guard you; love her and she will preserve you.
Most important is wisdom; get wisdom and with (or “in) all your acquisitions acquire understanding.
There are many other examples in the Bible of the feminine gender of the Holy Spirit, but I’ve already covered this information in the previous article. So lastly I would like to quote from Isaiah 11:1-2, where it says:
And there will come forth a twig out of the stem of Jesse, and a shoot will branch off from its roots;
And she – the Spirit of YHWH – will rest upon Him,
The Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding;
The Spirit of Advice and Strength;
The Spirit of Knowledge and the Fear of YHWH.
Before summing up…
I believe that I presented enough evidence for my claim that the Holy Spirit is feminine, and not masculine. I know many people will reject this because their master is not God who is Truth, but their own theology, money, opinions, or other things. So all I can do is to present this information before them, and it’s up to them whether to accept or reject it.
You will probably never hear any major pastor talking about the femininity of the Holy Spirit because their master is not Jesus. They know that if they talk about topics as controversial as this, like flat earth, they will lose church attendees, and therefore will lose money. Their master is money, so they make decisions according to it. So I don’t expect this information to ever getting into the mainstream, though, of course, I would love this to happen.
Also, many religious people will reject this information as well, because, again, they don’t want to really know the truth. All they want to is follow the established traditions of men and their denominations. They don’t like it when their beliefs are challenged.
We are told not to harden our hearts through sins or against the truth, and therefore I hope that you will consider all I’ve written here.
In conclusion, we find that both the earliest Christian manuscripts as well as early Christians whose writings are accessible today had no problem in describing the Holy Spirit as a Mother or a female. We find that this begins changing from the fourth century forward when the Catholic Church has been established.
From then on, the Holy Spirit becomes more and more masculine, until her true gender becomes so concealed that only those who really seek will ever find it out. It didn’t help that the major manuscript languages that we received our English translations from had another gender for the word “spirit”.
So we can see how these two factors have led to the concealment of the feminine nature of the Holy Spirit. I believe that now this knowledge is coming to light, but only to those who really seek it. We are told the that Holy Spirit will lead us into all the truth, but this can only happen if people don’t reject the truth that they receive. You cannot pick and choose which truth you receive from the Holy Spirit and which you don’t want to acknowledge, since this will lead you to be cut off from any kind of revelation.
It is indeed true what the Scripture says – that the truth shall set you free; the more I learn from the Holy Spirit, the more this frees me. I hope this information has benefited you as well, and please share this and the first article with others if you believe it to be valuable.
*Update* My beloved readers, my posting frequency will reduce a little as I’m dedicating an extra day a week for Hebrew study. This will benefit me and those who watch my videos/read articles in the future, so I consider it a great investment:)