Gender of God: Wikis

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God

General conceptions
Atheism · Deism · Henotheism · Monolatrism
Monotheism · Panentheism · Pantheism


Specific conceptions
Creator · Architect · Demiurge · Devil
Sustainer · Lord · Father · Monad
Oneness · Supreme Being · The All
Personal · Unitarianism · Ditheism · Trinity
in Abrahamic religions
(Bahá'í Faith, Christianity, Islam, Judaism)
in Ayyavazhi · in Buddhism · in Hinduism
in Jainism · in Sikhism · in Zoroastrianism


Attributes
Eternalness · Existence · Gender
Names ("God") · Omnibenevolence
Omnipotence · Omnipresence · Omniscience


Experience and practices
Faith · Prayer · Belief · Revelation
Fideism · Gnosis · Metaphysics
Mysticism · Hermeticism · Esotericism


Related topics

Philosophy · Religion · Ontology
God complex · Neurotheology
Euthyphro dilemma · Problem of evil
Portrayal in popular media
List of religious texts


The gender of God can be viewed as a literal or as an allegorical aspect of a deity. In polytheistic religions, the gods are more likely to have literal sexual genders which would enable them to interact with each other, and even with humans, in a sexual way. In most monotheistic religions, there is no comparable being for God to relate to in a literal sexual way, so the gender of this one-and-only deity is most likely to be an analogical statement of how humans and God address, and relate to, each other, with no sexual connotations. Although God is an intangible spirit in many religions and therefore has no sex, debate over his/her "actual" sex has nevertheless passionately raged in recent decades.

Contents

Comparative religion

What is understood by words for god varies across cultures and has sometimes changed dramatically at various times. Buddhism challenged various ideas in Vedic religion, the monotheism of Judaism challenged its polytheistic neighbours, and in European history, the Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity under Constantine I, later becoming its center, but being challenged itself during the Reformation.

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Evolutionary process

A simple view of the history of religion as an evolutionary process was proposed in the 19th century— from animism to polytheism to monotheism, with some believing theism, atheism or agnosticism to be the most advanced approach. Such views are no longer widely current either in the study of religion,[1] nor in philosophy. Analytic philosophy widely considers speculative metaphysics to be outside the reach of epistemology and scientific scrutiny.[2] Comparative religion notes distinctive idiosyncracies across major religions that are better explained by close historical scrutiny,[3] rather than appeal to a simplistic theory.[4]

Role of language

Nonetheless, a hegemonic Western conception of metaphysics, influenced strongly by Judaism and Christianity is identifiable in European literature from Greek and Roman authors through to the present, such that English language betrays an inherent bias towards monotheistic thought. Where animist languages may not even have words for personal deities, but rather a nuanced vocabulary of spiritualism, and polytheistic cultures have lexis suited to articulating relationships between deities in a pantheon, some modern English speakers only recognize alternatives such as God, gods or no God, being unfamiliar with Buddhism and animism.

Literary comparisons

When considering the literature of the world's religions and metaphysical philosophies, the diversity of the underlying conceptions of the spiritual realm is foundational to appreciating any points of comparison. Comparison of views of the gender of spiritual entities is no exception. Each religion or philosophy needs to be understood in its historical, social, linguistic and philosophical context. Thus, matters of gender do apply to animism, but not in the foundational way they do in polytheism and monotheism. Additionally, since animism is largely associated with preliterate societies, we are dependent on the ethnographies of cultural anthropologists rather than documented scriptures and later commentary.[5] Shinto is a notable exception.

Abrahamic religions

Judaism

Although God is referred to in the Hebrew Bible with masculine imagery and grammatical forms, Jewish philosophy does not attribute to God either sex or gender.[6] At times, Jewish aggadic literature and Jewish mysticism do treat God as gendered.

Christianity

The Creation of Man, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo.

Most Christian groups conceive of God as Triune, having the belief that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are distinct persons, but one being that is wholly God.[7][8].

God the Son, having been incarnated as a human man, is clearly masculine. God the "Father" or "Creator" is interpreted as clearly masculine to Biblical literalists. Others interpret God as gender neutral.[9] [10]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church #239 specifically states that "God is neither man nor woman: he is God".[11][12]

Gender of the Holy Spirit

The New Testament also refers to the Holy Spirit as masculine in a number of places, most clearly in the Gospel of John, chapters 14 to 16[13]. These texts were particularly significant when Christians were debating whether the New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit is a fully divine person, or some kind of "force". All major English Bible translations have retained the masculine pronoun for the Spirit, as in John 16:13.

Islam

The oneness of God is of primary importance in the Qur'an and Islam. In Qur'an, Allah is most often referred to with the pronouns Hu or Huwa, and although these are commonly translated as him, they can also be translated gender-neutrally, as it. This is also true of the feminine equivalent, Hiya. Allah is neither male nor female, and is said to transcend gender. It is considered blasphemy for Allah to be placed in a human or animal sexual gender category. Qur'an 112:3-4 states: "He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him." Other references include the first person pronoun, and the relative pronoun ma (that which), as in the phrase "the heavens and that which created them" (Qur'an 91:5).

Indic religions

Hinduism

The oldest of the Hindu scriptures is the Rigveda (2nd millennium BC). The first word of the Rigveda is the name Agni, the god of fire, to whom many of the vedic hymns are addressed, along with Indra the warrior. Agni and Indra are both male divinities.

The Rigveda refers to a creator (Hiranyagarbha or Prajapati), distinct from Agni and Indra. This creator is identified with Brahma (not to be confused with Brahman, the first cause), born of Vishnu's navel, in later scriptures. Hiranyagarbha and Prajapati are male divinities, as is Brahma (who has a female consort, Saraswati).

Rigveda

There are many other gods in the Rigveda.[14] They are "not simple forces of nature", and possess "complex character and their own mythology".[14] They include goddesses of water (Āpaḥ) and dawn (Uṣas), and the complementary pairing of Father Heaven and Mother Earth.[14] However, they are all "subservient to the abstract, but active positive 'force of truth'" (Rta), "which pervades the universe and all actions of the gods and humans."[14] This force is sometimes mediated or represented by moral gods (Āditya such as Varuṇa) or even Indra.[14] The Āditya are male and Rta is personified as masculine in later scriptures (see also Dharma).

In some Hindu philosophical traditions, God is depersonalized as the quality-less Nirguna Brahman, the fundamental life force of the universe. However, theism itself is central to Hinduism.[15]

Sikhism

Irrespective of the native-language meaning of the Mantra, the standard English translation neutralises the implied gender role. Nonetheless, the Guru Granth consistently refers to God as He, even in English. He is also predominantly referred to as Father.

Animist religions

Animist religions are common among preliterate societies, many of which still exist in the 21st century. Typically, natural forces and shaman spiritual guides feature in these religions, rather than fully fledged personal divinities with established personalities. It is in polytheism that such deities are found. Animist religions often, but not always, attribute gender to spirits considered to permeate the world and its events. Polytheistic religions, however, almost always attribute gender to their gods, though a few notable divinities are associated with various forms of epicene characteristics—gods that manifest alternatingly as male and female, gods with one male and one female "face", and gods whose most distinctive characteristic is their unknown gender.[16]

In pop culture

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Before us lies a literature rich in profound insights and immense with carefully collected and tested facts: a wealth of resources beyond the imaginings of those 19th century scholars who gave attention to religious questions." Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, A Theory of Religion, (Rutgers University Press, 1996), p. 12.
  2. ^ "One of the first to sceptically dismantle speculative metaphysics was French philosopher Pierre Bayle (1647-1706). The turning point, however, came after German philosopher Immanuel Kant in the 1780's expressed scepticism about the speculative metaphysical approach; it was not rational science and was not even real knowledge." Spencer Scoular, First Philosophy: The Theory of Everything, (Universal-Publishers, 2007).
  3. ^ "We try to specify in a relatively complete way why and how various aspects of religion occur and to do so through a structure of formal explanation." Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, work cited, p. 11.
  4. ^ "Available 'theories' of religion remain largely the product of 19th century social thought and the tradition of 'grand theory' associated with the founding fathers of social science. But, as already suggested, close scrutiny reveals that these theories are not so grand." Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, work cited, p. 11.
  5. ^ "These pose the opportunity to borrow some extremely powerful tools, and we have responded by ransacking the treasuries of economics, learning theory and cultural anthropology." Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, work cited, p. 12.
  6. ^ "G-d has no body, no genitalia, therefore the very idea that G-d is male or female is patently absurd. We refer to G-d using masculine terms simply for convenience's sake, because Hebrew has no neutral gender; G-d is no more male than a table is." Judaism 101. "The fact that we always refer to God as 'He' is also not meant to imply that the concept of sex or gender applies to God." Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Aryeh Kaplan Reader, Mesorah Publications (1983), p. 144
  7. ^ Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Page 226.
  8. ^  "Person". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Person. 
  9. ^ Achtemeier, P; Longstaff (1996). Harper Collins Bible Dictionary. Harper Collins. pp. 377–378. ISBN 0-06-060037-3. 
  10. ^ Wilson, H (January), Name and Gender of God, http://archive.elca.org/onebody/bs1_name_and_gender_of_god.html, retrieved 14 August 2009 
  11. ^ David Bordwell, 2002, Catechism of the Catholic Church,Continuum International Publishing ISBN 9780860123248 page 84
  12. ^ "Deum humanam sexuum transcendere distinctionem. Ille nec vir est nec femina, Ille est Deus." From "Pater per Filium revelatus", Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae. (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993): 1-2-1-1-2 ¶ 239. (Official English translation)
  13. ^ Nestle and others, Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th ed., (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgeselschaft, 1993)
  14. ^ a b c d e Michael Witzel, 'Autochthonous Aryans? The Evidence from Old Indian and Iranian Texts', Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies 7 (2001): 1–118.
  15. ^ "Religious theism which is central to Hinduism." Robert Lawson Slater, Review of Philip H. Ashby History and Future of Religious Thought: Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 4 (1964): 117–118.
  16. ^ "We are yet more strongly reminded by the two-fold nature of Phanes of the epicene god-heads, who occur frequently in the Babylonian pantheon." Gauranga Nath Banerjee, Hellenism in Ancient India, (Read Books, 2007), p. 304.

Further reading

External links


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