The Spiritual Feminine in New Testament and Patristic Christianity

Rosemary Radford Ruether

in Goddesses and the Divine Feminine

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780520231467
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940413 | DOI:
The Spiritual Feminine in New Testament and Patristic Christianity

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The anti-gnostic church fathers of the late second century, such as Irenaeus and Tertullian, worked to canonize, as the original and true “deposit of faith,” those early Christian writings that enshrined the views of what was then becoming the established church. The Christians who shaped the stories, hymns, and sayings of Jesus that lie behind the canonical New Testament were reflecting on what for them was the decisive event in salvation history: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This chapter traces female symbols in early Christianity from the first to the fourth century. Here, we see a further masculinization of female symbols, such as Wisdom, that Christianity appropriated from its Jewish roots. At the same time, however, a powerful new set of female symbols of the divine and the redeemed human, as female Holy Spirit, Mother Church, bridal soul, and finally as Mary, Mother of God, began to be elaborated.

Keywords: Christianity; female symbols; Wisdom; New Testament; Mary; female Holy Spirit; Mother Church; bridal soul; masculinization

Chapter.  11954 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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