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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.

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