Image: Anthropomorphic Female Figurine: Symbol of Fertility Religion
“God Feminine – A Hidden Side of the Biblical God” was the title of an exhibition presented in the Museum für sakrale Kunst (Jesuitenkirche), Heidelberg, Germany, on October 10 through December 19, 2010.
Olaf Rölver, from the University of Bamberg, Germany, has written a review of the exhibit. Below are a few excerpts from the review. The review was translated into English by Robert Schick.
The exhibit “Gott weiblich – eine verborgene Seite des biblischen Gottes” “God Feminine – A Hidden Side of the Biblical God” is a loanable, traveling exhibit that has been shown so far in the Museum für Kunst und Geschichte in Fribourg, Switzerland (2007/2008), in the diocesan museums in Rottenburg (2008) and Bamberg (2010) as well as in the Museum für sakrale Kunst und Liturgie (Jesuitenkirche) in Heidelberg. It is based on the collection of the project Bibel + Orient Museum in Fribourg, and was conceived by Dr. Othmar Keel, who was also the curator along with Dr. Thomas Staubli.
The exhibit has a message that is primarily theological: against the dominant discourse of God as ‘Father’ and ‘Lord’ it seeks to show that the images of God that the Christians usually made have a flip side regarding God’s gender. God is not to be conceived as one-sided and exclusively masculine. Rather, feminine sides must also be integrated into any human attempt to conceive of the divine (fig. 1). Within church discourse, the exhibit places a provocative finger in the wound of continuing gender inequality
The figure 1 mentioned in the review, represented by the image above, is one of the many “voluptuous anthropomorphic female figurines [which] are symbols of the fertility of the land and of the life of people and animals.”
The review of the exhibition contains several images symbolizing the concept of God feminine and fertility religion. You can see the images and read the review here.
It is important to notice that fertility religion was a characteristic of Canaannite religion. Astarte, the fertility goddess, played a prominent role in Canaanite religion. Archaeology has uncovered iconographic representations of fertility goddesses with exaggerated sexual features as seen in some of the images included in the review of the exhibition.
The influence of Canaanite religion and fertility practices was widespread in Israel and Judah, primarily among the remnant of the Canaanite population that remained from the days of the conquest of the land. However, the prophets strongly condemned fertility religion and the association of Yahweh with the fertility goddess as an alien practice that was a violation of the covenantal faith of Israel.
For additional information about the syncretistic practices of Israel and Judah, read the three posts listed below.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary