Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities.
It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. (Wikipedia)
Anthropomorphic was a big word we learned in seminary. I had a hard time wrapping my head around it until it was explained to me in terms I could understand.
Our instructor told us that Bugs Bunny, Wiley Cayote, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweety Bird are examples of anthropomorphism, putting human qualities on animals. It is not just with animals that this is done, Sponge Bob Square Pants is literally a sponge.
Many people will put human, usually female, characteristics on their cars. We often hear people talk about their cars saying, “she’s a real beauty.”
We give storms human names.
In the Bible, in the book of Numbers chapter 22 (thank you Lisa Dann), a donkey speaks for God to get the attention of the man riding “her” (yes, the donkey is called female) because the man is not listening to God.
Giving human characteristics to animals is an ancient part of storytelling and not anything we are going to change. As long as stories are told, we will be giving human characteristics to those entities which are not human. It makes the story more interesting. My kids learned an awful lot from a purple talking dinosaur, and I from a big yellow bird.
As soon as humans were able to speak and write about God, we have given God human characteristics to help us understand. We call God “he” because those who started telling and writing stories about God were male, so they assumed God was male.
Most of us do not give this a second thought, it has become a habit, we call God “he” because that is what we have always called God. There is nothing wrong with individuals doing this.
As a worship leader, representing the United Church of Christ, I am called to think about ALL of those in our midst.
It is ok to keep singing as you want to sing, we love our traditions. Now those who do not call God “he,” “she” or anything else but God have a song to sing as well.
Hopefully the next generation of scholars will tackle the language in the Bible, let’s pray that they do! If Christianity does not evolve, it will wither on the vine.
Two thoughts. First, you missed the opportunity to state that the donkey (female) saw the angel of the Lord), while Balaam (man) did not. Numbers 22:23 “The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand, so the donkey turned off the road and went into the field, and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road.” Once again, men thinking that they know the way, ignoring the insight of women. LOL
Second, in Genesis 1: 26, 26 “Then God said, “Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness, …” Clearly the likeness of God is male and female together. Amazing this was missed in those early [male dominated] years of the church.
As always, thanks for the insight!