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Feminine God Imagery in Early Syrian Christianity

The following is a surprising excerpt concerning the development of early Christianity from History of the World Christian Movement, Vol I: Earliest Christianity to 1453 by Dale T. Irvin and Scott W. Sunquist (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2001), 63-64.  

After reading this excerpt, leave your thoughts in the comment section: What do you think about the use of Feminine Imagery for the Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit?  

Another distinctive feature in Syriac Christian literature concerns the positive use of feminine images in liturgy and theology. Often Syriac writers employed images of the Spirit as woman, reflecting a theological inclusiveness in gender that has contributed to contemporary discussions of trinitarian language. An early Syriac eucharistic liturgy calls upon God as both Father and Mother to descend upon the elements being shared. The Syrian tradition sometimes provided strong feminine imagery for both Christ and the Holy Spirit.

It was not uncommon in the early Christian movement for newly baptized persons to be fed milk and honey as a sign of their crossing the Jordan River. The Odes of Solomon, a collection of Christian hymns from the end of the first or very early second century, extends that image in a strongly feminine direction to encompass all three divine figures in Christian worship. The Son is a cup of sweet milk, the book tells us, while the Father is he who was milked, and the Holy Spirit she who milked him. In another place the Odes contain a hymn of Christ that suggests Christ is the one who feeds us. Christ says:

     I fashioned their members
     And my own breasts I prepared for them,
     That they might drink my holy milk and live by it. (1)


(1) The Odes of Solomon, trans. James H. Charlesworth (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 42.


Defeating Racism :: X KKK Leader’s Testimony

Is Enjoyment of Torture Wrong? :: Problems in Ethics

Is it “wrong” or “bad” to enjoy torturing other people?  Listen to a philosopher try to convince a reader that there is no such thing as a wrong desire, only we call things “wrong” or “bad” when they have consequences that we don’t prefer.  This would mean that a desire to torture people or an enjoyment at the thought of people being tortured is not necessarily “bad” or “wrong.”  In a word, this is the philosophical insanity that a godless theory of ethics (i.e. pure utilitarianism) leads to. 

Could a pleasurable state of mind have no intrinsic value at all, or perhaps even a negative intrinsic value?  Are there pleasurable states of mind towards which we have an unfavourable attitude, even though we disregard their consequences?  In order to decide this question let us imagine a universe consisting of one sentient being only, who falsely believes that there are other sentient beings and that they are undergoing exquisite torment.  

So far from being distressed by the thought, he takes a great delight in these imagined sufferings.  Is this better or worse than a universe containing no sentient being at all?  Is it worse, again, than a universe containing only one sentient being with the same beliefs as before but who sorrows at the imagined tortures of his fellow creatures?  I suggest, as against Moore, that the universe containing the deluded sadist is the preferable one.

… It is difficult, I admit, not to feel an immediate repugnance at the thought of the deluded sadist.  … Our repugnance to the sadist arises, naturally enough because in our universe sadists invariably do harm. … language might make it difficult for us to distinguish an extrinsic distaste for sadism, founded on our distaste for the consequences of sadism, from an immediate distaste for sadism as such.  

Normally when we call a thing “bad” we mean indifferently to express a dislike for it in itself or to express a dislike for what it leads to.  … when a state of mind is always, or almost always, extrinsically bad, it is easy for us to confuse an extrinsic distaste for it with an intrinsic one.  If we allow for this, it does not seem so absurd to hold that there are no pleasures which are intrinsically bad. 

:::::::Source: J.J.C. Smart, “An Outline of a System of Utilitarian Ethics,” in Readings in the Problems of Ethics, ed. Rosalind Ekman (New York, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1965), 22-23.

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