God as Father

Some or even many argue nowadays that by naming the first person of the Trinity Father, Christian preaching, theology, and worship have underwritten the oppression of women and helped to maintain a patriarchal system in society and church. To introduce our examination of particular data from the Old Testament, it is as well to recall the relative absence of feminine language and image of God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This feature of these monotheistic religions distinguishes them from the ancient cultures that expressed the divine through such language: as the goddess Tiamat in the Babylonian Enuma Elish cycles, Asherah in the Canaanite religion, Fricka in the Scandinavian epics, and Hera who was the sister and consort of Zeus for the Greeks and was identified as the goddess Juno by the Romans.

In the Old Testament Scriptures, God exercises no sexuality and is utterly transcendent. Even if male and sometime female images are applied to the deity, the sense that God is literally neither male nor female and transcends creaturely representations comes through the official Old Testament prohibition of divine images. The prophet Hosea witnesses to this sense of the divine transcendence when God speaks through him: “I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos 11: 9). This sense of YHWH’s being utterly holy and different from human beings backs the prohibition of material images for God and affects the language the Old Testament uses for the divinity.

However, we should note that even if the Old Testament neither speaks of our addresses God as anyone’s “Mother,” it does use material Similes[1] in this context. God is graphically compared with a woman who suffers in childbirth (Is 42: 14), as well as with a midwife (Ps 22: 9-10). Comparisons with maternal conception and begetting are also pressed into service by Pentateuch (Num 11: 12; Deut 32: 18). As a mother does, God wishes to comfort the suffering people (Is 66: 13). The divine love goes beyond that of woman for her children: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Is 49: 15). A tenderness beyond that of a mother is highlighted by Sirach 4: 10: “The Most High will be more tender to you than a mother.”

In the Old Testament Scriptures, God is known through many names, above all through the personal name of YHWH (e.g. Ex 3: 14; 6: 6-8), the most sacred of names that is used about 6800 times in the Old Testament, both by itself or in compound like YHWH Malak (“King”: e.g. Ps 93: 1). God is also generically known as El (“divinity”), as in El Shaddai (“God, the One of the Mountain/s”: e.g. Ex 6: 3; Num 24: 4, 16), the intensified plural Elohim (“divine God”: e.g. Gen 1: 1), and El Elyon (“God Most High”). In the Old Testament, a little more than 20 times, God is name or addressed as Father.

a)      Father in the Proto-Canonical Books (those 39 books accepted by as inspired and canonical)

One of the oldest texts in which God is called Father comes from a song attributed to Moses:

“Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and senseless people? Is he not your Father, who formed you, who made you and established you? (Deut 32: 6).[2]

This text from Deuteronomy indicates how Father, when used of God, usually refers to the special covenantal relationship with God of the people who have been delivered from captivity and called God’s (firstborn) son (e.g. Ex 4: 22-33; Hos 11: 1) or God’s “sons and daughters” (e.g. Deut 32: 19; Is 1: 2; 30: 1). God gave them birth (Deut 32: 18) by electing and adopting them. An historical divine choice, and not any kind of sexual activity and physical generation (as in the case of the gendered Gods of surrounding nations), made God their Father.

A later passage recalls God’s covenantal promise, conveyed in an oracle through the prophet Nathan to King David: “I will raise up your offspring after you… and will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a Father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use… But I will not take my steadfast love from him” (2 Sam 7: 12-15). By naming God as Father, the oracle delivered by Nathan in Second Samuel 7 brings out the unconditional nature of the promise and relationship. No matter what happens, God’s choice of the Davidic dynasty, like the divine election of the whole people, has established a permanent relationship: God is and will remain faithful Father to the people and its king.

We find parallels to Second Samuel 7: 12-15 in First Chronicles 17: 11-15; 22: 9-10; 28: 5-6, a work which comes into existence between 350 B.C.E. and 300 B.C.E. and which draws, sometimes verbatim, on the books of Samuel and Kings but without mentioning them by name. all three texts from First Chronicles repeat Nathan’s oracle and God’s promise to the Father to the king as the divinely adopted son.


[1] A simile uses language in its customary sense to compare an aspect of something (or someone) with that of something (or someone) else. For example, in the case of Isaiah 42: 14, God’s “loud” intervention is likened to woman gasping and painting in labour. Whereas a Metaphor extends the use of language beyond its “ordinary” meaning/s to generate new perspectives on reality by asserting an identity between two subjects (and not merely by comparing two aspects): e.g.: “Nigel spends his evenings surfing the World Wide Web”; “Sally is the lioness of her net ball team”; “God of Father to the people.”

[2] Here and elsewhere in these closing chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses is pictured as recalling the intimate covenant bond between God and the people. By flirting with other religions, the people deny their true parentage and behave like ungrateful children. God’s nurturing fidelity and mercy are contrasted with the perverse infidelity of Israel.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “God as Father

  1. Thank you Sharon, I appreciate your informative and interesting details in regard to the gender of The Godhead but it’s sad to see Woman not cherishing their God given role as Man’s helpmate. Physically, Mentally , Emotionally and spiritually which we were created for, so they feel the need to usurp the Man’s Authority and Leadership. We are neither male or female in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:27-29) but this is in regard to our Spiritual rebirth not our roles, which are clearly defined in the Scriptures.

    I was at one time visiting a Church that was worshiping Mother God the Creator in a song they were singing which also called God weary, both contradict Scripture unless we believe Jesus The Living Word and part of The Godhead was a woman. John 1:1 and disregard other Scriptures that tell us God is never weary (Isaiah 40:28) but yes He is indeed weary of Mankind’s wrong doing but this was not easy to discern from the words in the song.

    When I share God’s Truth I do so with His leading and under His Authority, as an anointed Evangelist I proclaim His Truth passionately but I’m also thankful that when in Church, I’m under the Authority of a faithful Man that God has chosen and who will answer for his Shepherding of the flock and I give thanks also that as a married woman, I’m under my husband’s Authority who is told to cherish and sacrificially Love me as Christ Loves the Church, why would I not consider these a wonderful Blessing to be thankful for and which when obeyed are in obedience to God’s guidelines, who is our Abba Father, our Daddy not our Mummy and He is our only Father in total Authority and we worship Him in Spirit and Truth ( John 4:23.)

    Matthew 23: 8-9 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in Heaven.

    Romans 8:14-16 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons/daughters of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

    Many Blessing for the New Year – Christian Love from both of us – Anne.

What do you Think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s