The Holy Spirit as feminine: Early Christian testimonies and their interpretation

For those looking for an interesting read regarding the femininity of Holy Spirit be it short or long, here are a few of my favorites that I thought you may enjoy reading while sipping a lovely pumpkin spice latte.

The Holy Spirit as feminine: Early Christian testimonies and their interpretation

Johannes van Oort


The earliest Christians – all of whom were Jews – spoke of the Holy Spirit as a feminine figure. The present article discusses the main proof texts, ranging from the ‘Gospel according to the Hebrews’ to a number of testimonies from the second century. The ancient tradition was, in particular, kept alive in East and West Syria, up to and including the fourth century Makarios and/or Symeon, who even influenced ‘modern’ Protestants such as John Wesley and the Moravian leader Count von Zinzendorf. It is concluded that, in the image of the Holy Spirit as woman and mother, one may attain a better appreciation of the fullness of the Divine.

Van Oort J., 2016, ‘The Holy Spirit as feminine: early Christian testimonies and their interpretation’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 72(1), a3225.


The Maternal Face of the Holy Spirit 

Dr. István Gábor Cselényi

holy spirit mother


 Cover image:
The Holy Trinity in St James Church, Urschalling

I had the honor of previewing Dr. István Gábor Cselényi’s new translated book last year. It is currently only available as an ebook. His book contains some excellent research into the history of Wisdom Sophia and her connection to Holy Spirit. My thanks goes out to István for the long hours of research and writing that went into this lovely work that reveals Holy Spirit as Mother.  The art in particular is of great interest.


God as a woman giving birth

The most common image that depicts God as a mother can be found in Isaiah 42:14, where the prophet elaborates on Yahweh’s anger and pain: I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.” In verse 16, he states that the world is reborn from God’s labor pains: the darkness of the blind turns into light.

Moses complains about his people with the following words: “Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.” (Deuteronomy 32:18).

The image of the woman in labor is also taken over by the New Testament: in Acts, in his Aeropagus sermon, the Apostle Paul talks about God making references to Greek poets: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  Apart from our time in our mother’s womb, we never live in another person, but we can perhaps see the entirety of mankind – regardless of color of skin, sex, religion, political and economic systems – living, moving and acting in the cosmic womb of God.

This view is reinforced by the Apostle Paul himself when he writes in his letter to the Romans: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:22-23). He seems to regard salvation as the birth, which happens not only in the lives of individual people, in the microcosm but in the entire creation, in the macrocosm.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as a mother: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6). Being born from the flesh means being born from a human mother, while being born from the Spirit means being born from a divine mother. We will encounter this image in other passages as well.

These statements encourage us all to see the images of “being born again” as the evidence of the existence of the female component in the world, while the call for a spiritual rebirth should be interpreted as a call to experience God’s maternal womb and mankind’s birth from there. In other words, it is a call to quit our egotism and to tune into God’s will the same way as the fetus is in complete harmony with and in the circulation of the mother carrying it. The discovery of God’s motherhood could therefore serve not only our inner peace but also the universal peace of the human race.

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  • Thank you Deidre. This is good stuff. I’m a Christian Minister in Los Angeles and I’ve always believed the Holy Spirit had to be Mother God. One has to strain to think otherwise. As a child in a Catholic family God was a little scary to me and adults always argued about Jesus, so I felt very drawn to Mary. I needed a comforter in addition to a Father who, I was told, was loving. As I grew in a truly personal faith based on the only faith tradition with which I was familiar, I perceived something lacking. Every human I knew was knit in the womb. Why would the trinity in its fullness be without a feminine essence? If we are created in the image of the godhead, and the godhead is Father Father Son, then why in creating his Opus did He make half of all things something He is not- something represented not in Himself. For me, the resounding answer was that He didn’t. The wise comforter is our Mother who art in Heaven. And praise be to God that this is so. Many of the ills of this world arise because we see all power, all glory, and all love, as solely male. I believe it has led us to favor masculine traits to such a degree that Gods creation is sorely out of balance. The human race needs it’s Mother! I’m looking to begin teaching this but am praying for a way to do it so that the people won’t cover their ears and close their hearts and scream lalalala, I can’t hear you. Thank you for doing your part on this important topic. May the Lord bless and keep you and may She make Her light to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.


  • Thank you, Thom. It’s good to hear that you are looking to bring some teaching on Holy Spirit Mother to your congregation. All my best to you! (prayers included!)

  • GENESIS 1:1 – 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the SPIRIT of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

    If God the FATHER is the “first” person of the Trinity, why is HE not the first MENTIONED in Genesis? After all it reads, “God created….,” followed by, “Spirit of God.” And from there, the dualistic polarities (light/dark, night/day) were split into their distinct opposite essences.

    Makes you wonder if mainstream Christianity did a little ‘sequencing’ reshuffle of the Three Persons as a means of sublimation……..

  • The Bible says that there is only ONE God. God is ONE and a Being that can’t be seen.
    GOD is represented, ONLY by the Son of God. It is a possibility, therefore, that God is BOTH Male and Female and that “male and female” are QUALITIES and ATTRIBUTES that are physically manifested in creation itself. The ” Light” is invisible but the Sun is the visible representation of Light for example. In Hebrew, the feminine VOICE is RECESSIVE while the Masculine is ACTIVE.
    Since God SPOKE the Word into existence then it stands to reason that Creation IS what GOD is! The spoken Word is ACTIVE, therefore, the Word is Male. However, the Heart is recessive and invisible, therefore it is FEMALE, as are emotions and thoughts. Men and women possess both although each aspect is more dominant in either species…..demonstrating which parts of GOD are either male or female. For example, since women are more emotional and give birth and menstrate by the cycles of the Moon; the aspects of God that are Female are emotions; birthing and even the Moon itself. However the Active parts of God are Male, such as “seeding” ( sperm), creating (inventions) and the Sun itself (The Son of God) being the Physical light of the world.
    It is appropriate to call God “He” because just as a couple is called Mr. and Mrs. Mankind, God is REPRESENTED by it’s Head…the Son and we are married to HIM through the process of “her” REBIRTH.
    Folks…..God is NOT a man. Nor is God a woman. God is NOT a human being, so let God BE what God IS……A PERSON….THE ONLY PERSON who EXISTS and shares “Himself” in humanities male and female forms through Jesus Christ, the Head and embodiment of that which is invisible but ONLY made VISIBLE through HIM.
    BE blessed.

    • If God the Son’s human/physical embodiment (Jesus) was male because it was congruent with “his” nature, this suggests that gendered persons within the Godhead are an absolute, not OUR human construct. And as God created man in his own image – male/female – the only logical explanation is that one of the three persons of the Godhead must be a woman.

      • No, there is another logical possibility: that each of the divine persons have both male and female properties. Or a combination: that that each of the divine persons have both male and female properties simultaneously that they manifest male and female principles in relation to each other.

        • Perhaps, but attributes – positive/negative – typically associated with gender (protector vs nurturer; tyrant vs doormat) only got their respective designations because of us. Ultimately, a nurturing man is still a man; he is neither more nor less “feminine” because of. And a tyrannical woman is still a woman, regardless. Thing is I used to buy into this whole divine masculine/feminine balance within everyone, but it really is nothing more than just an abstraction. At the end of the day, Jesus is male, which means that the Son – one of the three persons of the Godhead – is also “spiritually” male. By logical extension, this then requires one of the three persons of the Godhead to also be a woman, in absolute terms……

  • This is my belief of the divine feminine. We are spirit children of a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father. They are two separate individuals. They together, created our spirit. The spirits created by our Heavenly Parents then came to earth into the bodies descended from Adam and Eve. I believe God can only create perfection. Therefore Adam and Eve had to choose to become mortal and know good from evil. Eve chose to partake of the fruit because she knew, in order to have children and know good from evil she had to choose mortality. Adam saw the wisdom of her choice and chose to partake of the fruit, in order to remain with Eve and then be cast out of the garden. Eve made a courageous choice. Because of her choice, mankind is here on earth. Family is the divine plan of our Heavenly Parents. We came from a Heavenly family, with a mother and father. We were able to come to earth and obtain physical bodies because Adam and Eve chose to create a family.

    • I’m always surprised that people don’t lean more to the end of Genesis Chapter one where god says:
      “Let US create man and woman in our image.”
      for 5o years I’ve understood this to be The WORD (the masculine)
      speaking to The Holy Spirit , the feminine through whom all life is given birth or rebirth.

      But yes the two are as one in Jesus and God. just as the two images of God, the man and the woman become as one in marriage as god said they would.

      God said that this was a great mystery and I think that God desires us to resolve the mystery.

      I think that what I’ve written above solves that mystery.

      The fact that Jesus said, “If you receive the Spirit that I send, you receive me.”
      is misinterpreted as proof that the Spirit is masculine as he, the WORD was.
      But rather, it is the proof that the Spirit and the Word are one in God.


  • Jonathan,

    You wrote:
    “If God the FATHER is the “first” person of the Trinity, why is HE not the first MENTIONED in Genesis? After all it reads, “God created….,” followed by, “Spirit of God.” And from there, the dualistic polarities (light/dark, night/day) were split into their distinct opposite essences.

    Makes you wonder if mainstream Christianity did a little ‘sequencing’ reshuffle of the Three Persons as a means of sublimation……..”

    That’s just it; HE was mentioned at the beginning of Genesis, but as the WORD.
    I think whatever reshuffling occurred after too shallow or unwise an interpretation of God’s own explanation. Another key passage that I’ve never heard a satisfactory interpretation of, and that requires an understanding of the feminine principle, the receptive principle within God is right there at the start.

    Breaking it down:

    “In the beginning was the WORD”
    Right here contemporary Christianity begins the watering down, as they have for the most part relegated “the word” to the limited meaning of the Bible or God’s Word.
    But one cannot say, in the beginning was the Bible, so just what is the WORD?
    The Word is God the Father, the masculine, the Creative principle.
    We know that the WORD is masculine, because when the word was made flesh, God had a son!
    Following we have the family of the Trinity, Father, Mother and Son.

    “In the beginning was the WORD
    and the WORD was God
    And the word was WITH God!”

    This clearly shows that God was also something or someone besides the WORD,
    someone that the WORD was WITH.

    Christianity insists that Jesus factors into this passage
    but the simple reasoned truth is that in the beginning only the WORD was WITH the SPIRIT
    and as one in God.

    Yes the WORD has always been but Jesus (the WORD made flesh) did not become manifest until God chose to make it so.

    Only the WORD and the HOLY SPIRIT
    The Father and Mother
    The masculine and feminine
    were there in God, in the beginning.

    In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with the Spirit,
    the Word was God,
    and the feminine Spirit was God.


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