God Feminine – A Hidden Side of the Biblical God

Anthropomorphic Female Figurine
A 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.

Origin

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.

Goal

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.

Religious Syncretism in Israel and Judah – Part I

Religious Syncretism in Israel and Judah – Part II

Religious Syncretism in Israel and Judah – Part III

NOTE: For other studies on syncretism in the Old Testament, read my post, Syncretism in the Old Testament.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

NOTE: Did you like this post? Do you think other people would like to read this post? Be sure to share this post on Facebook and share a link on Twitter or Tumblr so that others may enjoy reading it too!

I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you thought of this post by leaving a comment below. Be sure to like my page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Tumblr, Facebook, and subscribe to my blog to receive each post by email.

If you are looking for other series of studies on the Old Testament, visit the Archive section and you will find many studies that deal with a variety of topics.

This entry was posted in Archaeology, Canaanites, Fertility, God of the Old Testament, Hebrew God, Syncretism and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.