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G*d f/m/d - Gender diversity since Biblical Times

Conchita: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen / Ute Franz-Scarciglia

Discovering the many sides of G*d –
archeology and religion in Palestine/Israel

What gender is G*d? Is G*d female or male or something completely different? What does archeology have to say about it? In fact, even the earliest prehistorical representations of divine beings seem to indicate that this was an important issue. Figurines and other representations of the divine world of the Middle East indicate that there were at least as many female divinities as male.

And even in the time when the Hebrew Bible texts adopted by Christianity as the Old Testament postulated a single male God, archaeological finds show that God could also be a woman and sometimes had more than one gender.

These archeological objects largely come from the area between the Mediterranean and Jordan, and they demonstrate the wealth and diversity of the surrounding civilizations in the land of the Bible.

Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority; permanent loan to the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, IAA 1934-128
Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority; Dauerleihgabe an das Israel Museum, Jerusalem, IAA 1934-128

In G*d’s Image: Male and Female

In many cultures, the Creator figures are ambisexual: they beget as well as giving birth.

In the Bible, G*d says, “Let us make mankind in our image” (Genesis 1:26) – the first story describes the creation of the world and of human beings by G*d. Humans are created “in the image of G*d … male and female” (Genesis 1:27).

If the image of G*d is both male and female, then both sides are unified in G*d. Gender plays an important role in the story of the first people in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2) before they are expelled from the garden and face a lifetime of hard labor.

Ancient Jewish and Christian authors connected the creation stories in the Bible with a similar story by Plato, in which the first people are spherical and androgynous, male and female. The gods cut apart the original unit, and “love” is the attempt to restore this original androgynous unity.

The new Adam: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Digitalisat: Lea Bachmann
The new Adam: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Digitalisat: Lea Bachmann

G*d’s Goal: Unity in Diversity

The Bible speaks of a “new creation” and a transformation of the world at the end of time. The relationship between G*d and human beings is restored by suspending the previous roles and differences. In the interpretation of the Bible, the following question always arises: in the “new creation,” do the sexes become one again?

Sexuality in religions can also be imagined in this way: the merging of the sexes, male and female, into one and the same person as a sign of the “new creation” – just as male and female are originally unified in G*d.

The modern era is familiar with the “male” and “female” biological mechanism on the one hand, and on the other is also aware of the many gradations that exist “in between.” The search for the origin and meaning of love and sexuality never ends.

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