Recently in our Post Communion Prayer during Sunday worship we have been thanking God, “…that at Wisdom’s holy table you (God) have fed us again with ‘her’ bread and wine, the food of everlasting life.”
I wanted to let you all know that this wonderful language used to portray God is not simply in response to modern feminist thought or theology. The personification of God as Lady Wisdom is a very deep and important part of Jewish Old Testament Biblical language, and as a result, something that we should be deeply aware of as well. Wisdom (God’s wisdom), when spoken of in scripture, is nearly always personified as a woman. The Biblical understanding of ‘wisdom’ changes throughout scripture and could actually be considered as the foundation for the Holy Spirit in New Testament scripture.
A couple of things you might be interested to know: First of all the word ‘Wisdom’ in Hebrew is typically a word used in the feminine form. It is also found in feminine form “Sophia” in New Testament scripture. So the origin of the word in scripture when used to refer to God is feminine. Here is an example: Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. Proverbs 1:20. Proverbs is filled with these images. And there are other Hebrew examples in Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs(Solomon), Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach.
Another example where words for God are found in feminine form can be found as early as Genesis 1:2 when God’s Spirit hovered over the waters during creation. The Hebrew word “Ruah” for breath or spirit is also usually found in feminine form. There is a whole interesting study of scripture just examining the gender translations. It seems that our ancestors may actually have been much better at accepting broader descriptions for God than we are.
Finally, one thing we do as humans is to ‘personify’ God. We talk about God in human terms using human characteristics. As long as we are careful not to belittle or limit our understanding of God this can help us to relate to and understand who God is. Remember God’s answer to Moses, when asked who God was, “I AM who I AM” Exodus 3:14. And God is truly beyond our comprehension. Fortunately or unfortunately we only have our limited human language(s) to discuss who and what God is. Since God created us in God’s image, then I believe it is definitely OK to use personification language – in both genders – to better understand who God is so that we all can be in a deeper relationship with God.