Blog: January 2015

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Keep the training wheels

One day last week on my way out of the office, I encountered a pair of college-age women who looked a little lost. One politely asked if they could ask me something, so I said sure. (Cue ominous music.)

Her question: did I know where in the bible it says that God is female?

I said that no, it doesn't say that, or at least not the Hebrew Bible -- what any other books might claim is neither known nor interesting to me -- and that God doesn't have gender; grammar does. She then took a weird turn, talking about how the word "Elohim" (one of the words for God) is plural. I never did learn, during the conversation, where she was going with that. I told her that while the word has the appearance of being plural it is usually singular; for example, I said, in the very first verse of Genesis, we see that noun paired with a singular verb (and that continues through the rest of the creation narrative). I taught her as much Hebrew grammar as I could explain while standing on one foot.

She then said something like "but Genesis says 'male and female he created them, in his image, in his likeness' -- so God must be female too". I happen to know the Rashi on that1 and responded that God, master of the universe, is surely not limited by physical form, so "in his image" and "in his likeness" must mean something else, and gave Rashi's answer.

Soon after the conversation started to go in circles. She pulled out her phone to show me the verse in English (might have been King James; not sure); I pulled out my phone and said "let's look at that in the Hebrew, shall we?". The other person spoke for the first time around this point, saying something like "oh, are you Jewish? We have great respect for the Jews", which is usually a Christian lead-in for "but they've missed an important message", so I said that yes I am, sorry but I do have to get home, and good luck in their quest for knowledge and do check out the Rashi I mentioned.

I suspect that the one was tutoring the other in missionary work. It looks like they both need some more practice. Meanwhile, while I did a decent job in the counter-missionary role, I clearly didn't convince them that they were mistaken in the five minutes or so that I was willing to give this.

That was Wednesday, I think. Then tonight I came across this question on Mi Yodeya, which asks about the word "Elohim" being female, and that question links to a Christian video making an argument that uses these elements (arguing that there must be two gods, and the male one made Adam and the female one made Chava, err, Eve), so I see the connection they were failing to make now. It's still utter nonsense, but at least now I know the nature of the utter nonsense.

A comment on the Mi Yodeya post says the group behind this idea is actually a doomsday cult, but I'm not curious enough to actually research that.

I work in a usually-staid office building -- not a place I expect this kind of encounter.

1 Rashi understands b'tzelem ("in Our image") as "with Our mold/form/die" and kidmuteinu ("as Our likeness") as referring to understanding and wisdom:

Man was made with a die, like a coin, which is made by means of a die, which is called coin in Old French. And so Scripture states (Job 38:14): “The die changes like clay.” - [from Letters of Rabbi Akiva , second version; Mid. Ps. 139:5; Sanh. 38a]