Gnostic Doctrine

Monday, 21 December 2020

God has Breasts El Shaddai

 The Breasts of the Father Ode 19





In this study we will look at the feminine aspects of God but first we will start with an opening reading from the Odes of Solomon Ode 19:

Ode 19 
A cup of milk was offered to me, and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord's kindness. 
The Son is the cup, and the Father is He who was milked; and the Holy Spirit is She who milked Him; 
Because His breasts were full, and it was undesirable that His milk should be ineffectually released. 
The Holy Spirit opened Her bosom, and mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father. 
Then She gave the mixture to the generation without their knowing, and those who have received it are in the perfection of the right hand. 
The womb of the Virgin took it, and she received conception and gave birth. 
So the Virgin became a mother with great mercies. 
And she labored and bore the Son but without pain, because it did not occur without purpose. 
And she did not require a midwife, because He caused her to give life. 
She brought forth like a strong man with desire, and she bore according to the manifestation, and she acquired according to the Great Power. 
And she loved with redemption, and guarded with kindness, and declared with grandeur.
Hallelujah. 

The teaching that the Father has feminine breasts might seem shocking at first but if we look deeper into this we will find that this is very common among early church writings  

Church Father: Irenæus, bishop of Lyons from 178-ca. 200 ce wrote in his major work Against Heresies, "Those who do not have a share in the Spirit are not nourished to life by the Mother's breasts." (Irenæus, Against Heresies (Adversus Omnes Hæreses), book 3, ch. 24:1; in Stramara, 'El Shaddai ...' ibid., p. 7)

Clement of Alexandria is perhaps the best known patristic author in this regard, with his use of images of mothering and nurturing—but no common development akin to the Syriac tradition of the feminine Spirit took place.

Elaine Pagels writes: 

Clement characterizes God in feminine as well as masculine terms:

The Word is everything to the child, both father and mother, teacher and nurse . . . The nutriment is the milk of the Father . . . and the Word alone supplies us children with the milk of love, and only those who suck at this breast are truly happy.  For this reason, seeking is called sucking; to those infants who seek the Word, the Father's loving breasts supply milk.

One can recall Jerome's admonition that the word for Spirit is feminine in Hebrew, masculine in Latin, and neuter in Greek, instructing us that God is without gender. But Jerome's comment may well indicate that debate on this matter was taking place.
El Shaddai
The idea that God has breasts comes from the Hebrew word El Shaddai:

The main Hebrew lexicons, Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) and The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT, also known as K-B for its editors, Kohler and Baumgartner), both offer various possibilities for the etymology of the word shaddai. One possibility is that it derives from the verb שדד shadad. שדד shadad means “to deal violently with,” but none of the lexicons or theological word books suggest that shaddai means “God of violence.” Another possibility, found only in BDB, is that the name comes from שדה shadah , which means “to pour out,” and refers to God as “rain giver.” The Kohler-Baumgartner lexicon (HALOT) suggests that the word could be based on the Akkadian shadu which means “mountain.” Thus, El Shaddai means “The God of the mountain(s).” This seems to be the current favorite among scholars. HALOT also suggests another possibility, such as the idea that El Shaddai refers to one of the ancestral gods, but the meaning of the name is uncertain.

One possibility that is not mentioned in either BDB or HALOT is found in both the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT) and also in the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE). And that is that the name Shaddai comes from the word thdw/y which means “breast” (or “mountain.”) (See TDOT, I:257; NIDOTTE, I:401). Although TDOT concludes that “God of the mountain” is the best translation, the fact that it recognizes “The God of Breasts” as a possibility is significant.

In Hebrew the word שד shad means “breast.” The noun itself is masculine in form even though it refers only to female breasts. TDOT notes that shaddai follows a common pattern for divine name formation using a “natural element plus an adjectival suffix. One thinks of ‘Artsay, Tallay, and Pidray, wives of Ba`al whose names mean “One of the Earth,” “The Dewy One,” and “the Misty One” (TDOT, I:256). Thus Shaddai would mean “The Breasted One.” [1]

The etymology of El Shaddai remains uncertain and contested. As HALOT concludes, “Despite several attempted and suggested explanations the etymology of שדי has still not been completely clarified” (II:1421). For this reason, we should not dismiss possibilities like “The God of Breasts” simply because some scholars have come to an admittedly uncertain consensus on “God of the Mountain(s).”

El Shaddai literally translated means the strong breasted one

He provided for the people of Israel when He "led" them in the wilderness (Deut. 32:10 12). It was He that (Exod. 20:2) "led" them out of Egypt. He, also, said to Abraham (Gen. xvii. i 2) "I am thy God (Heb. El Shaddai), be-well-pleasing before me." Thus, "in the manner of a true Child-leader, He secretly fashions Abraham so as to be a faithful" a remark that would seem more to the point if we could suppose that Clement had some vague notions about "Shaddai" as being connected with the All-sufficing Father, and perhaps with "breasts." 

Compare the early Jewish interpretation of the Abrahamic title of God, Shaddai the All-sufficer

El Shaddai All-Sufficient Sustainer

God is One Person but there is a dual aspect to God's nature the Deity is both Father and Mother The very name God, Almighty, in its original Hebrew form El Shaddai, reveals the infinite quality. El, God, its first meaning, Strength: Shaddi, the plural whose singular, Shad, signifies a Breast and is feminine. Our natural father and mother, with their united strength and wisdom, truth and love are types of that Perfect Parentage, our Father and Mother which are in Heaven

The duality of God is expressed in the book of "Genesis" as follows: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image; male and female created He them; and called their name Adam." 
Ode 19
Ode 8 "My own breasts did I prepare for them" This indicates a recognition of Christ as Mother

In Ode 8, Christ too is the nursing mother: "I fashioned their limbs/ and my own breasts I prepared for them/ that they might drink my holy milk and live by it." (8:14)

Odes (19:2 foil.) while continuing to represent God, and not man, as the Giver of the Milk, mentions also the Holy Spirit (whom the poet ventures to describe as "milking" the Father "because His breasts were full ") and the Son apparently the pre-incarnate Son whom he has previously (ib. 2) called "the Cup." Afterwards (ib. 6) the Ode goes on to speak of the Virgin as "becoming a Mother." 

In Ode 19 it is not a male chest (Rev 1:13) the author bestows a mother's breast on the Father 

The Father is imaged in wholly feminine terms: nursing from his breasts, and midwife at Mary's birthgiving.

Again, the images for God in this Ode recall certain Old Testament metaphors: God as midwife in Ps 22:9-10, God as comforting mother in Isa 49:15 and 66:13, and God travailing in the throes of divine labor pangs in Isa 42:14b.

Almost the only mention of "mother" in the Odes is (35:6) "I was carried like a child by his mother, and the dew of the Lord gave me milk" (comp. 35:i "The dew of the Lord... hath He distilled upon me"). 

The Son is the cup, and He who was milked is the Father^ 19:4 "...the milk from the two breasts of the Father." 

"Milk," on the other hand, they frequently mention, and even as coming from the "breasts" of the Father 
Medieval Christian Mystics 
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) (Cistercian) Sermon to prelates Show affection as a mother would, correct like a father. Be gentle, avoid harshness, do not resort to blows, expose your breasts: let your bosoms swell with milk, not swell with passion. ... Why will the young man, bitten by the serpent, shy away from the judgment of the priest, to whom he ought to run as to the bosom of a mother?(42)212 

Guerric of Igny (Cistercian) [Christ] is a father in virtue of natural creation ... and authority. ... He is a mother too in the mildness of his affection, and a nurse. ... The Holy Spirit (is) like milk poured out from Christ's own breasts.(39) 

Clare (1194-1253) --Clare's dream The Lady Clare also told that once she had seen St. Francis in a vision and she was bringing him a jug of hot water and a towel for wiping his hands and with this she was ascending a long stairway, but so easily that it was as though she walked on the level earth. When she reached St. Francis, he bared his breast, saying "Come, take and drink." And she did so. Then St. Francis bid her suckle a second time. And what she tasted seemed to her so sweet and delightful that she could not describe it in any way. And after she had suckled, the nipple of the breast from which the milk came, remained between the lips of the happy Clare; she took what remained in her mouth into her hands, and it seemed to be such pure shining gold that she saw her own reflection in it, as in a mirror.213 

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)214 Catherine wrote down her visions and her interpretations of Christian scripture, of which the first of the following excerpts from her 'dialogue' is based on the saying of Jesus, "Whosoever thirsteth, let him come to me and drink." It is offered here as a contrast to the further writings of Catherine focused on drinking. 

ch. LIII "... And why did her say 'Let him come to me and drink'? Because whoever follows his doctrine, whether in the most perfect way or by dwelling in the life of common charity, finds to drink, tasting the fruit of the blood, through the union of the divine nature with the human nature. ch. LXXII "... But the soul who has in truth entered the house of self-knowledge, and by the exercise of perfect prayer has raised herself from the imperfect love of imperfect prayer, by the means of which I [the Father] speak to thee in this treatise on prayer, receives me, through affection of love, seeking to draw herself the milk of my sweetness from the breast of the doctrine of Christ crucified. ch. XCVI "... She receives the fruit of quietness of mind, a union with my sweet divine nature, where she tastes the milk, as when the child, who sleeps at peace on the breast of its mother, draws to itself milk by means of the flesh of its mother; so the soul, arrived at this last state, reposes on the breast of my divine charity, keeping in the mouth of holy desire the flesh of Christ crucified, ... So the soul reposes at the breast of Christ crucified, who is the Truth, and thus draws to herself the milk of virtue, in which she finds the life of grace, tasting in herself my divine nature, ... "Now look, sweet daughter, how sweet and glorious is this state, in which the soul has made so close a union with the breast of charity, that the mouth is not found without the breast, neither the breast without the milk. And so this soul does not find herself without Christ crucified or without me, the Eternal Father, whom she finds, tasting the supreme and Eternal Deity. ... "At this breast of love the memory fills itself, ... ch. CX "Now I will reply to that which thou didst ask me concerning the ministers of the holy Church ... And since one thing is better known by means of contrast with its contrary, I will show thee the dignity of those who use virtuously the treasure I have placed in their hands; and in this way thou wilt the better see the misery of those who to-day are suckled at the breast of my Spouse." Then this soul obediently contemplated the truth, in which she saw virtue resplendent in those who truly taste it. ... "Thou knowest that thou wentest one morning to church at sunrise to hear Mass, ... When the minister came to consecrate, thou raisedst thine eyes above his head while he was saying the words of consecration, and I manifested myself to thee, and thou didst see issue from my breast a light, like a ray from the sun, ... out of the midst of which light came a dove and hovered over the host, in virtue of the words which the minister was saying. ch. CXXXIX "... Wherefore his religion is a delightful garden, broad and joyous and fragrant, but the wretches who do not observe the order, but transgress its vows, have turned it into a desert and defiled it with their scanty virtue and light of science, though they are nourished at its breast. 

Julian of Norwich (1342-1413+)215 Jesus is our true Mother in nature by our first Creation, and he is our true Mother in grace by his taking our created Nature. (15) The mother can give her child suck of her milk, but our precious Mother Jesus can feed us with himself, and does most courteously and most tenderly with the blessed sacrament, which is the precious food of true life. ... The mother can lay her child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother Jesus can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open side.(19) 

Christian folklore From the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine (1229-1298) --the tale of seven women followers in the martyrdom of Saint Blaise in 287 ce Meanwhile the governor, seeing that he could not force the saint [Blaise] to worship idols, had him bound to a stake, and commanded that his flesh be torn with iron spikes; after which he was again led back to gaol. Seven women, however, followed the saint, and gathered up the drops of his blood. ... Then one of the women, who was the mother of two children, laid hold of the [pagan] robes and threw them into the fire. And her babes said to her: 'Dearest mother, do not leave us behind, but as thou hast plenished us with the sweetness of thy milk, so now fill us with the sweetness of the Kingdom of Heaven!' Then the [pagan] governor had them lashed to the stake, and the executioners laid open their flesh with iron points. But their flesh remained as white as snow, and from it milk spurted forth instead of blood.217 

--the martyrdom of Saint Agatha in 253 ce On the morrow, the consul said to her: 'Renounce Christ and adore the gods!' Upon her refusal, he had her bound to a rack to be tortured. ... Enraged, the consul ordered that her breasts by roughly twisted, and then commanded that they be torn off. And Agatha cried: 'Cruel and impious tyrant, does it not shame thee to torture, in a woman, that with which thy mother suckled thee? But know that in my soul I have other breasts, whose milk sustains all of my senses, which I have long since dedicated to God!'218 

--Saint Bernard [Bernard's mother] bore seven children, six children and one daughter, and dedicated all the sons to be monks, and the daughter to be a nun. For as soon as she had given birth to a child, she offered it to God with her own hands. Nor would she allow her children to be suckled at the breasts of other women, but imparted to them, with the maternal milk, the nature of their mother's virtue.219 
The Shakers
Shaker theology is based on the idea of the dualism of God as male and female: "So God created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). This passage was interpreted as showing the dual nature of the Creator

An all-important, sublime, and foundational doctrine of the Shakers is the Existence of an Eternal Father and an Eternal Mother in Deity — the Heavenly Parents of all angelical and human beings.


31. As Father, God is the infinite Fountain of intelligence, and the Source of all power — "the Almighty, great and terrible in majesty;" "the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, dwelling in the high and holy place;" and "a consuming fire." 

32. But, as Mother, "God is love" and tenderness! If all the maternal affections of all the female or bearing spirits in animated nature were combined together, and then concentered in one individual human female, that person would be but as a type or image of our Eternal Heavenly Mother. 




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