Many years ago when I began writing and speaking about expanding divine images, a friend gave me a t-shirt that has on it a manger scene with an arrow pointing down to the baby with these words: “It’s a girl!” With just three words this t-shirt expresses a profound truth in Scripture and Christian tradition. Incarnation comes in all genders.
I grew up hearing, “You may be the only Jesus some people see.” But all the names and visual images of the Divine were male and white. Most churches today still use language and visual imagery that give messages of Incarnation as male, and many churches give messages of Incarnation as white male. Incarnation expresses the truth that Divinity assumes human flesh, not just male flesh, not just white flesh, but all human flesh. Incarnation includes all of us—all genders, all races, all cultures.
“Celebrate Sophia’s Birth” seeks to express the inclusivity of Incarnation. Sophia is the Greek word for “Wisdom,” linked to Christ in Scripture and Christian tradition.
A prominent biblical female divine name and image is “Wisdom,” Hokmah in the Hebrew Scriptures and Sophia in the Christian Scriptures. She was also prominent in early Christian tradition. But most churches have excluded Her and other female divine names and images and continue to exclude them. This exclusion supports male-dominated churches and culture. Reclaiming Sophia and other biblical female divine images will help dismantle patriarchy and white supremacy in church and society.
Wisdom (Hokmah) in the Hebrew Scriptures is depicted as creator, sister, mother, preacher, liberator, redeemer, establisher of justice and peace. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy” (Proverbs 3:17-18). In the New Testament Wisdom (Sophia) is linked to Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul refers to Christ as the “power of God and the Wisdom (Sophia) of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and states that Christ “became for us Wisdom (Sophia) from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Depictions of Sophia (“Wisdom”) have traditionally been dark or a combination of dark and light. Ruah (“Spirit”) and other female divine images are also often represented as dark. Sophia and other dark female images of the Divine support racial as well as gender equality.
Sing and celebrate Sophia, Tree of Life! Give birth to peace, justice, equality, and love in our world. Celebrate Sophia and give birth to new life!
Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton
Mary Plaster: “Sophia, Divine Wisdom”
photo from The Gathering: A Womanist Church
Elaine Chan-Scherer: “Mary Magdalene”
Katie Ketchum: Sing of Peace album cover
David Clanton: “Tree of Life”
photo from Equity for Women in the Church event