Scholar: Bible links male and female images to God

Is the image of God something tangible, like a mother figure, or an abstract concept, like wisdom?

About twenty students and members of the Fort Worth community gathered at the Kelly Alumni Center on Tuesday to hear three professors discuss this question for the lecture “The Meaning of the Image of God.”

Mayer Gruber, a visiting scholar from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, said Genesis has both male and female imagery to convey the idea of God. He said that since the time of the first century, there has been a lot of talk about whether or not God is a male or female.

The most sacred object in religion is not a cross or the scroll of the Torah but a man and a woman, and must be treated as such, Gruber said.

Gruber also talked about female imagery in the Book of Isaiah from the Old Testament, as God is often referred to as a “she.” The book has images that support God as a mother and include references to God as a woman in labor, Gruber said.

“God says, ‘I’m a supermom and I won’t forget my children,'” Gruber said.

Toni Craven, professor of the Hebrew Bible at the Brite Divinity School, said God is frequently referred to as being compassionate in Psalms, where mixed metaphors are used to describe God.

She said the characterizations of God include a transcendent God, a God with human likeness, a God with animal likeness and a God with natural likeness, such as rocks or water.

“The transcendent God includes descriptions of God as the divine creator, the giver of life, the one beyond sexuality, the one like nothing known in the world of the human,” Craven said.

The language is closely associated with God as a mother in Psalms, Craven said.

“Mother” is never a name used for God in Psalms, but there are 12 references that bring together thoughts that link God with mothers, births and breasts, Craven said.

Rather than something tangible, religion professor Claudia Camp’s interpretation of the image of God is one of wisdom.

Camp said the concept of wisdom is personified as a woman throughout Proverbs, where humans are called to enter into relations with her.

She said wisdom has human origins, and a man is told to get wisdom, love wisdom, prize her and embrace her.

Wisdom is described as truthful speech, and people desire her and she is better than jewels, Camp said.

Amy Skierski, a freshman graphic design major, said the discussion offered a new perspective.

“I never listened to a lecture of God being represented as a woman before,” she said.

Skierski said she found the lecture most interesting when Gruber said people are a representation of God on Earth, even though she said she is not sure if she agrees with the idea.