Q:I read your article while in an extremely dark place, and, first of all, how dare you. Until you sit on the ground clutching to any form of hope, sobbing and praying and begging yourself to live, you do not know pain. When you can’t even get up to shower or eat or move, you don’t know pain. But you somehow have the audacity to speak like you know. Wow. Just wow! — A
A: Dear A, I am so sorry you are in a dark place. Let us agree that you have no idea what pain I have suffered and what pain I have confronted, and I do not know yours. So, let us agree to show some humility for what we do not know and some compassion for the burdens life bestows upon us along with its many blessings. I pray that you might soon find a healer who can know you. May God comfort you and bless you and bring you into the light.
Q: Why won’t the Christian mainstream community accept that God has a wife? Are there any denominations who accept the possibility God had a wife or Jesus had a wife? — J
A: Let’s start our wife hunt for God in the Hebrew Bible. Nothing there, because God is not a person. God is not a man or a woman and so God has no wife. However, as the biblical period morphed into the rabbinic period (and Christian period) both Judaism and Christianity became more sensitive to the need to lift up and enrich the feminine aspect of God. Judaism divided God’s attributes into a male aspect called the kadosh baruch hu, “The Holy One Blessed be He” and a female aspect called shehinah, “The indwelling presence.” Christianity, particularly Catholicism built up the image of Mary as a profound female aspect of God’s mercy, even though Mary was never included in the Trinity as an actual part of God.
There is a weird medieval legend in Judaism that tells a story that Adam had two wives; a first wife named Lilith and then a second wife named Eve. Lilith left Adam because he would not accept their equal sanctity and became a night demon with red hair who kills babies and seduces men. This is why there is a Jewish superstition to tie a red ribbon onto the crib of a baby to protect the child from Lilith. Lilith eventually becomes God’s wife!
In general, the Abrahamic faiths have gone through a 2,000-year-old struggle to reconcile old patriarchal images of God and our growing and holy impulse to ensure that our daughters grow up to have the same spiritual horizons as our sons. That journey is not over.
Q: I enjoy reading The God Squad in the Raleigh News and Observer every Sunday. I had some questions as an 11-year-old seventh-grader in a Christian school, it being my first of two years there. I’m 74 years old now, and I am still waiting on a good answer, so here goes: When we read in class about Cain slaying Abel, and then being punished by the Lord, Cain was afraid because everyone would try to kill him. So, the Lord put "the mark of Cain" on Cain and said if anyone hurt or killed Cain, their punishment would be seven times as bad! So, I raised my hand, and asked "who?“ Who was he afraid would hurt him, as there was only his parents and him left, since Abel was dead?
In the very next paragraph, Cain went "out in the land of Nod, east of Eden, and knew his wife." That hit me funny, so, again, I raised my hand and asked, "who?" Who was his wife, and where did she come from?
I have many more questions from Genesis, but these first two are a good start. I hope you can help! Thanks. — J in Buies Creek, NC.
A: The Bible is interested in describing the sacred history of some people, not all people. The line of 10 generations from Adam to Noah and 10 generations from Noah to Abraham is the focus of the biblical text. However, your question from your 11th year and now your 74th year is still vexing.
Adam and Eve and then Cain and Abel and Seth were indeed supposed to be the only people on earth and then suddenly Cain finds other people to flee from and to marry (Genesis 4:17). The answer comes in Genesis 5:4 where we read that after the birth of their third child, Seth, Adam “had other sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4). So apparently Cain married one of his sisters, which raises other thorny questions. My opinion: Cain met some girl from New Jersey at a party and things got interesting.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)