God Switched Genders as a Result of Translation?


#1

The campus ministry at my college holds a week long busy persons retreat at the end of January as a way to give spiritual direction to catholic college students for about a half an hour from Monday to Thursday. The spiritual directors are usually religious sisters from different religious orders around the area. Anyway, I attended this thing 2 years ago, and a seemingly nice and gentle sister asked me if she could be my director. I agreed and signed the consent form.

During day two of this retreat, we were going over a scriptural passage, and the sister commented on how God is like a caring Mother. I was a little startled and dumbfounded when I heard her said that and said to her “Wait, God is our Mother? I’ve always been taught that God was our Father.” Then said she said something along the lines of "Well, that’s correct. However, I prefer to call God our Mother because, I read a book that said the original Hebrew Version of the Old Testament referred to God as ‘She’. And, when Saint Jerome translated the OT from Hebrew to Latin, he changed the pronouns directed toward God from feminine to masculine.

Now, my question is did Saint Jerome really changed the God pronouns from female to male is it historically incorrect?


#2

It is one thing to compare God’s loving care for us to the loving care of a mother towards her child or as the loving care of a hen towards its chick. It is another to teach that we ought to address God as our Mother.

I think this sister ought to be reported to her superiors for possibly teaching heresy. Jesus could have taught his disciples to call God, our Mother, or to call God, our Mother or Father, but he taught his disciples to call God, our Father.


#3

Christians already have a mother and her name is Mary.


#4

God has no gender. It is why males mirror Him and females mirror Him, too.

Having said that, Jesus called him “Our Father”, so who am I to say?:shrug::smiley:


#5

This is the first I have ever heard such a claim (regarding St. Jerome). If there were any weight to it whatsoever, I cannot imagine how I would not have heard it shouted from the rooftops from many who would love it if it were true.

In fact, the only pronoun ambiguity I have ever heard of in regards to St. Jerome goes in the opposite direction. In Genesis 3:15, St. Jerome uses the feminine pronoun (“She will crush his head…” whereas most modern English translations use the masculine pronoun).

I would kindly ask the sister for her reference for further information if you want to look into the claim.

And before jumping on the poor sister for heresy, the OP’s quote from her does show her agreeing that it is correct that God is Father.

Also, God transcends gender. He is neither male nore female. Here is what the Catechism says:

CCC 239 By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, [Cf. Isa 66:13; Ps 131:2] which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard [Cf. Ps 27:10; Eph 3:14; Isa 49:15]: no one is father as God is Father.

So let’s not turn this thread into bashing women religious for wanting to feminize God. The OP seems to be looking for further information on the specific claim regarding St. Jerome.


#6

I’m not an expert in Old Testament Hebrew but this article by a Ph.D. says:

  1. God is referred to hundreds of times with masculine names and with masculine pronouns such as “he,” “him,” and “his.”

  2. God is never given a feminine name, or referred to with feminine pronouns such as “she,” her,” and “hers.”


#7

I am so confused. Jesus Christ is a Man so how is God not male?


#8

While it’s not completely relevant, I look at the claims of religious texts being rewritten to suit a particular agenda as being highly suspect. Referencing a sermon our priest gave a couple of weeks ago, the Apostles had no reason to fictionalize what happened before and after the Resurrection. Likewise, I tend to think that the notion that rewriting the gender of God to suit a battle over women’s rights that really wouldn’t occur until centuries later seems, well, bizarre.


#9

She could be referring to what Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) wrote as a theologian. I think the sister is incorrect to blankly say Hebrew originally said God was female - the Hebrew term for “Spirit” is a feminine noun (according to Ratzinger’s “Daughter Zion” (Kindle loc 163) so maybe she is twisting that into “God is female.” The word for Spirit in Latin is spiritus, a masculine term. Jerome didn’t make that rule up about the grammar. It is also not entirely accurate to presume that the “gender” of a literary term must absolutely coincide with the gender of the actual “person” which is depicted. For example, typologically speaking, Ratzinger notes that “sophia” is a feminine term grammatically, yet refers both to the Logos, the Word who establishes wisdom, and Mary’s womanly answer, her fiat, which brings wisdom to fruition.

That being said, regarding the term Spirit as a Hebrew feminine noun, Ratzinger does say that we “practically have a presentiment of the primordial type of the feminine, in a mysterious, veiled manner, within God himself.” (loc 167) I can’t find the reference right this second (I think it’s elsewhere in Ratzinger’s Daughter Zion or maybe Mary: The Church at the Source), but he emphasizes that God is revealed as Father, and it’s more a matter of how even an actual male person can have feminine “nurturing” qualities or the like, so God would embody feminine qualities even though God transcends gender and relates to the people of God as bridegroom.


#10

God is without gender, because He is pure spirit. Christ is male, by virtue of his human nature.

God’s love is the love of a Father and a Mother.

God’s gender never changed, because God never had gender.

If, it appears that through religious literature, that His gender changed, it is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of linguistics, and the use of feminine and masculine in language.

He is God the Father, because Father is something, we as humans can relate to. God’s very essence is to much for us to wrap our heads around, so we can only make sense out of this mystery by relating it to our world.

Peace and all good!


#11

:yup: We can’t attempt to change God’s own revelation of Who He Is as revealed in Sacred Scripture and ultimately by Jesus Who addresses His Father. While God is not male Scripture most suitably employs male metaphors for Him, while on occasion employing female similies for Him. There is a basic distinction between the two, with "simile/comparing (mother) and metaphor/naming (father), and the meanings they convey. . .Whereas similies compare, metaphors predicate or NAME [emphasis mine], “Language for God and Feminist Language, a Literary and Rhetorical Analysis,” Roland Mushat Frye, Interpretation, A Journal of Bible and Theology.


#12

It seems to me that this nun is likely in agreement with the LCWR agenda.

Thank God that Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have intervened in this matter.


#13

I don’t know why everyone gets so upset about the idea, it certainly is not new, nor is it particularly controversial:

Commentary on Psalms from The Psalter and the Song of Solomon with a commentary by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre
Gavigan, J., McCarthy, B., & McGovern, T. (Eds.). (2003). Psalms and the Song of Solomon (p. 3). Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers.

The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood (cf. Ps 27:10), although he is their origin and standard (cf. Eph 3:14; Is 49:15): no one is father as God is Father” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 239).


#14

I think I remember the sister saying something similar in regards to the terminology of “Spirit” in both Hebrew and Latin. She also specifically mentioned that God is “Pure Spirit” and has no gender. By the way, I do agree with the Catechism in saying that God is Pure Spirit. However, I think the sister should have at least referenced the book she was quoting from. If she did, then I must have forgotten. Keep in mind that this occurred 2 years ago and I don’t remember every single detail about that meeting, with the exception of her referring to God as “Mother”, about Saint Jerome, and that God is Pure Spirit.


#15

The book might have been the one written by Ratzinger, but probably not.


#16

I agree. What the sister said was both confusing and ambiguous. Nevertheless, I believe that we should refer the God as Father, because not only was Jesus a man, but He referred to His Father as, well, Father.


#17

If you are interested, both Daughter Zion and Ratzinger’s half of Mary: The Church and the Source are both short books. I think Daughter Zion is like 88 pages and Mary is like 120 or something. Both excellent reads, especially about Marian theology. If Pope Francis really wants to develop a theology of woman, these two books could serve as the already-existing foundation. :o


#18

I probably should have mentioned this earlier. At the end of the retreat, meaning on Thursday, she said a closing prayer and blessed me, and I quote “In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier.”


#19

:eek: Run - run away FAST!


#20

This helps explain why I urge you to run away from this “spiritual direction”:

catholicculture.org/news/features/index.cfm?recnum=56943&repos=4&subrepos=1&searchid=1329826


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