The Birthing Spirit, The Childbearing God: Metaphors Of Motherhood And Their Place In Christian Discipleship -- By: Beth M. Stovell

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 26:4 (Autumn 2012)
Article: The Birthing Spirit, The Childbearing God: Metaphors Of Motherhood And Their Place In Christian Discipleship
Author: Beth M. Stovell


The Birthing Spirit, The Childbearing God:
Metaphors Of Motherhood And Their Place In Christian Discipleship

Beth M. Stovell

Beth M. Stovell is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida. Beth holds a doctorate in Christian Theology from McMaster Divinity College. She has authored Mapping Metaphorical Discourse in the Fourth Gospel: John’s Eternal King (Brill, 2012) and co-edited Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views (InterVarsity Press, 2012). She is currently writing a commentary on the Minor Prophets (Zondervan) and a book on biblical language (InterVarsity Press) and is co-editing a book on motherhood in biblical and theological perspectives.

Introduction

Within evangelical circles, much discussion is centered on the role of God as Father. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is depicted frequently with this paternal metaphor.1 Yet, one should not overlook that God is also depicted with maternal metaphors. Within the Old Testament (OT), these metaphors of God as mother or God as one giving birth are often juxtaposed with traditionally male metaphors such as God as father and God as husband.2 Within the New Testament (NT), childbearing and mothering metaphors serve an important role in redescribing the spiritual rebirth (Gal 4:29; John 3:3-8), describing the experience of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the disciples (Matt 24:8; Mark 13:8; John 16:21); describing Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:3, 23; 1 John 2:20; James 1:18), and Paul describing his relationship to the Thessalonian church (1 Thess 2:7).

In this article, we will focus on two of the passages that describe God by using such maternal metaphors. We will examine the language of motherhood in terms of Christian rebirth in John 3 and God’s self-description as “like one giving birth” in Isaiah 42 and ask what this language might mean for interpreting the Bible as a whole in terms of gender roles and the implications for Christian discipleship. We will use linguistic/literary analysis of the metaphors of God’s motherhood to develop new ways of approaching how we unders...

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