Explorations in Theology

The series explores a theology that is human friendly! Jesus as the true human shows us who God is, and because of his consideration for us ('who are we, that God should make note of us?') defines who humanity was created to be. The nature of sin is to fall short of the glory of God. The glory of God as revealed in the truly human one - 'we beheld his glory full of grace and truth'. This volume is a foundation for the other volumes. And there are ZOOM groups available...
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In the womb

Two wombs make space

Although being a non-reflecting sort of person I always love the seasons such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Just gives a little pause to think and be thankful. Also this year being a year of focused writing that has centred in on the life of Jesus as the one who was fully God and truly human I have had to consider how he grew up, certainly not the baby in the manger who ‘no crying he made’. Brings me to consider the virgin birth.

I accept the virgin birth though so little is made of it in the Scriptures. Paul with all his writings does not mention it, nor Hebrews. Maybe Paul did not know about it, maybe it was always understood as a symbol? If that was the case I could accept that for there does not seem to be any level of appeal to the virgin birth theologically in Scripture. The theology seems in some way tied to a particular approach to sin and perhaps also to sex. (The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew does not put together a ‘pure’ line: neither racially nor sexually.)

What is clear is we are not reading some kind of myth of a god encountering a young woman and through some sexual act an offspring comes forth, a demi-god. The narrative pushes us right away from that, indeed it pushes us in a feminine direction with two ‘wombs’. The womb of a young woman, and at the same time the womb of the Holy Spirit. I am not suggesting that the Holy Spirit is female any more than I suggest that ‘God’ is male. I am simply suggesting that the imagery surrounding the virgin conception is feminine. Mary makes room for the baby; the Holy Spirit likewise makes room for the incarnation. It all happened through the overshadowing, brooding, creative shaping energy of the Spirit. Just as creation came forth by the word spoken into the brooding shape of the Spirit; just as the early disciples in the upper room were overshadowed by the same brooding presence; in that same manner comes forth a male child, born of a woman, born under the law.

Not much in the narrative that features the male presence.

What a wonderful act. Although the original Christmas was unlikely to have occurred at this time of year, here we are just breaking into the days getting longer (northern hemisphere of course) and with one eye on the new year, so I find Christmas… the brooding presence of the Spirit making room for new beginnings. Not an immediate birth, but a normal human process begins. What a combination. A natural process with aches, pains, inconvenience and participation between the divine and the human.

Reflecting back on Gayle’s post of a few days ago. Time to make any adjustments that are needed. Light is here. Clouds will come. Sight is possible to set a direction, even when sight will become less clear. A process will continue.

Twins are born having been carried in one womb. A (non-literal) birth from heaven is carried in two wombs.

7 thoughts on “In the womb

  1. Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God

    how is that not male imagery?

    blessings all

    Nigel

    1. Thanks Nigel… and as always appreciate the counter perspective. If one wants to read that as male imagery one could… it would (for me) read heavily sexual and I think totally inappropriate with respect to Scripture, though very much at home within the Greek pantheon of gods. It is certainly nothing crude of that nature involved.

      I read it as pushing toward the ‘two wombs’ perspective I allude to. Also the overlay of Genesis – Spirit / wind over the deep, and then the clearer parallel with Pentecost. The overshadowing speaks to me of a covering – as per Pentecost (clothed, come upon etc.).

      I know you are not suggesting at any level that the male imagery you see is of a sexual nature. The absence of human male is clear. The presence of God who is neither male nor female is present. I am not suggesting that God is present as female, but I am suggesting that the involvement of God is parallel to that of the involvement of the young woman, providing the space (womb?) where the one born will be truly ‘son of God’. The latter phrase I do not take to imply divinity but function – though I fully believe in the eternal pre-existence of the Logos and the divinity of the one incarnated.

  2. I think we have lost the deep reverence for Mary in western Reformed traditions. Her pivotal participation in the incarnation of Christ should engender awe and wonder that she was chosen to house the divine human in her womb. Her agreement was a requirement too which is so very like our non-controlling amazing God. The two wombs idea makes me think of Nicodemus too when he was trying to get his head around being ‘born again’ or ‘born from above’ and Jesus saying to him ‘flesh gives birth to flesh but the spirit gives birth to spirit’. Both vital for the rescue plan for humanity. I’m still trying to get my head round what it means 2000 years later with the bible and the church traditions and fathers to guide me!

  3. Interesting consideration to conceive (no intentional pun!) of the Spirit as in female form in Lk 1, too. However, in creation according to Gen 1, the female work of the brooding Spirit prepares the male work of the divine word (‘and God spoke’); wouldn’t the same be true in Luke 1:35, where the Spirit (to pneuma–Hebr. ruach, fem.) overshadows like a womb, and dynamis (Hebr. ‘oz) represents the male principle in God (cf. Gen 1:27)? Either way, I would like to continue follow my late NT teacher Klaus Berger who pointed out that even in the narratives of virgin conception, the Spirit is a bodily-physical force, not platonic principle.

    Mt 1 of course offers much more of an all-male narrative.

    I’m just playing around with exegetical possibilities here, also continuing to contemplate your’s, Martin.

    1. Thanks Dieter. And Matt. 1 is known for the ‘unusual’ women that are highlighted, surely disturbing (for all of us) the nice neat presuppositions we have; ethnicity, morality…

  4. I am fascinated that the conversation indicates a focus on binary gender. Is it not possible that god – they/them, – is non binary? Are we constrained to a traditional binary heterosexual description of them? If we are going to subject them to a gendered analysis we may need to expand the boundaries of the conversation. We would not want to diminish god by putting them into some small box of our own constrained thinking.

    1. Ann – I think is so vital a consideration at this time. Is male / female in creation (‘male and female’) a binary or a merism (spectrum)? And then we come to Galatians and there is no ‘male and female’ – same language as Genesis but breaking the language of slave / free; Jew / Gentile.

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