Biblical Maternal Images for God


This article discusses the use of Feminine or Maternal images or metaphors for God. Many get uncomfortable with this. For me, I think we need to separate between metaphors that help us understand something about God, and the potential reification of such symbols. The “Goddess Worship” cults that are on the periphery of Christianity seems to be an unhealthy reification (considering symbols as “real”), thinking that God is “female.” Of course the same can happen with masculine imagery of God. Recall the scene in the movie My Fair Lady, where a minister is trying to explain how God is “male.” I use masculine terms for God, in line with the majority metaphors in the Bible, and in line with Jesus being incarnated as a male human. But it is reasonable to recognize that there are some limitations to such symbology.

My question, of course, is whether there are times where feminine metaphors for God are useful in missional (cross-cultural) contexts? Not sure…

Global Theology

Mother’s Day makes me think about God’s maternal side. Christianity has been guilty of a patriarchal history that has been oppressive of women. Our conception of God as masculine, e.g. God as Father or King, certainly contributes to our slide into patriarchy. Although written in patriarchal contexts, the Bible itself does not refer to God exclusively in masculine metaphors. There are, albeit few, feminine metaphors used to describe God in the Bible. In this post, I want to highlight the maternal or motherly metaphors used.

God as Mother Bird & Mother Bear

One of the common images is God as a mother bird sheltering her children under her wings. We see this in Ruth 2:12 – “May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (All references are from Today’s New International Version.) The Psalms used this imagery…

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